Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Apprehension

I can't lie, when the idea was presented for Caden to come live with I was apprehensive.  Probably even more than that though I was scared as hell.  So many thoughts went through my mind.  How was I going to take care of him AND Shawna?  How do I keep my bearings?  What am I going to do if I need help and the nearest available is 4 hours away?  What if this and that?  Up until that time we'd had Caden with us for 1 summer break and some vacations.  I had been Shawna's caretaker for a year but was still learning the ropes for handling that and the idea of having the 24 hour, 7 day a week responsibility for Caden frightened the hell out of me to be honest.  It had only been a little over a year prior since I'd been a single man with virtually no responsibility for anyone but myself and now I was a caretaker, husband, and step father.  There's no doubt, I was reeling.

I can't say everything was smooth in the beginning.  I was frustrated, warn out, stressed out, and unsure of myself the majority of the time.  I felt completely overwhelmed.  We had a few months before winter hit and in that time we worked to try and come up with a game plan for living life.  Caden was still scared of Shawna's seizures at the time so when she had them I had to take care of her and try to comfort him at the same time.  After a little over a year here much of that has settled and I'm extremely thankful.

Caden began a new school and the accompanying problems of being a new kid quickly surfaced.  I don't know if it was fortunate or unfortunate for him but our response to the bullying bullshit all around us is that it's been overblown so when he came home to us about it our response was not the typical.  We had discussions about being confident, standing up for yourself, and we even showed him a few self defense moves in-case any of the kids stepped over the line from verbal to physical attacks.  We also let him know that if he was in the right we'd defend him no matter what the school said but if he was in the wrong he'd suffer the consequences.  He began to handle the issues himself and by the end of the year the talk of bullying had slowed considerably.

He played hockey last winter for a Canadian team and if people don't know what hockey is like in Canada let me just tell you, it's huge.  Think football in the southern part of the US and you'll get a rough idea.  Many of the kids play year round as many of the rinks are left open even through the summer and teams play continually.  For Caden's team the season went from October until April.  Practice two evenings per week and games every weekend.  Tournaments on some of them.  Most of the games were a minimum of an hour away and some up to 3.  This is made the season feel incredibly long.   In combination with that, Shawna's health last winter was awful.  She could barely get out of bed for the whole month on February, which also happens to be the coldest month we have here.  To top it off last winter was one of the worst in years between snow and cold (temps were below 0 for days at a time) in awhile.  By the time we hit March I was burnt out.  I was exhausted and the end of hockey season and beginning of spring couldn't come quickly enough.  It had been a long hard winter and not one I was wishing to repeat.

Reflecting back a few months post, I see now how worn I really was.  I would get frustrated pretty quickly, would tune people out, and had trouble sleeping and shutting my mind off.  This was until Caden was released from school for the summer.  At that point Caden went to his dads for the summer and it felt like I could get a deep breath.  Hell, for the first few days after making the exchange I did nothing but sit in front of the TV playing Fallout: New Vegas and drinking Coors.  I put something like 48 hours on it in 3 days! Shawna was feeling decent so I just sat and completely zoned out on it and I felt great!  There was really nothing to worry about, to think about.  My responsibilities were limited and the tension of the past year dissipated into thin air.  That lasted for a few days until Shawna had an appointment we had to attend in Boston (a complete waste of fucking time, thanks Army for that one.) and then we found out that football up here essentially starts when school gets out.  So, only two or three weeks into Caden's summer vacation with his dad, I had to run back down and get him as he had been talking about playing football for months.

While I was annoyed that Caden's vacation was cut short, both because I was enjoying the break and because it cut into him and his other families time together, football has been a great thing for both of us.  I was able to become an assistant coach and Caden has found a sport he really seems to love playing with kids that he's very happy to call teammates.  Our season went very well (from no wins the previous 3 years to 4-2 this season!) and I found out how much I enjoy teaching and coaching football.  While I'm not sure I'd enjoy other sports as much it certainly opens the door to the possibility of getting involved in others for I found something in coaching that I believe I needed.  It was a release.  A chance to focus and concentrate my attentions to something that mattered but wasn't directly related to my family life.  It turned into an outlet for aggression and an opportunity to push issues aside for a few hours a week and in the end I'm thankful for it.  I had the opportunity to meet some truly wonderful people and hopefully make an impact on some fabulous young men.

While Caden's coming to live with us certainly created some apprehension on my part in the beginning, I have to believe it was a natural reaction.  New fathers and mothers bringing their child home for the first time must feel something similar as do new step-parents.  I want so badly to do what's right by him; to teach him new things and to insure that I do my small part in insuring that he not only grows up to be a good man, but a better man than I am.  The truth of it is it's a wonderful opportunity that I've been given and while my being scared of certain aspects are likely natural, they're also not a bad thing.  Nervousness and apprehension can serve us well if harnessed appropriately.  They make us slow down, they make us think, they make us consider multiple solutions to problems.  They also make us very thankful for the simple things.

 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Winter Preperation

It's been a crazy few months in the our household.  While Shawna's health has been basically steady; that is, up and down but not seemingly in decline, we've all been pretty busy.  She's been at work as much as possible with her ceramics getting ready for a large craft fair she has coming up later in November, trying to complete an order for a brewery in central Maine, as well as create sculpture pieces.  On top of all this, she's trying to get a non-profit off the ground called Healing Arts of Maine which is aimed at using art to help those who've suffered and/or suffering from the things no one likes to talk about; abuse at the hands of a love one, PTSD related to a variety of situations including those received in battle, as a first responder, and as an abuse victim, and those with various mental disorders.  On top of everything else she has going on it's quite an endeavor.

Caden just finished football season a few weeks ago and did a great job as the team quarterback.  The whole team was wonderful and the amount of improvement they showed from the beginning of the season to the end left me feeling proud to be one of their coaches.  Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, I spent my first season ever as a coach (assistant) this past fall.  It was a pretty incredible experience to be part of such an amazing turn around for our JR program.  From no wins the past 3 years to a 4-2 record this year!  While we as coaches are often given much of the credit for the turnaround, for me the credit goes to the incredible  young men who spent countless hours, sweat, and tears learning and applying what we were attempting to teach them.

On top of football, Caden has been doing a much better job applying himself as a student than he did when he originally came to live with us last year.  He's settled in wonderfully after a bit of a rough start and his attitude and grades reflect that.  While he still has some issues on days when Shawna is not in the best of health, that's certainly understandable for a 12 year old.  He's been handed one hell of a hand at various times in his life and he amazes me with his ability to adapt to the situations presented to him.  I have to give kudos to his mom and dad for helping him develop a mental fortitude that is well beyond his years. Unfortunate as it is that so much is required of him at times, there is a part of me that believes it will be for his betterment as he moves from his teen years onto his adult life.

As to what I've been up to the past couple of months, other than football it's seemingly been all winter preparation all the time.  Firewood was a major concern for us as I made the mistake of not planning to be here this winter.  It's all cut and stack in the shed, much of it without the use of a tractor or other implement to get it out of the woods.  I am, however, thankful for some good people in the community who helped us both get some of the wood I was cutting out and for our neighbors who allowed me to borrow their wood splitter for the day.  While much of the wood we have is still green (not dry for you non wood burners), we at least have a enough stacked and drying in our shed to get us through the winter months.

On top of this, I've been attempting to better insulate and prepare the house for the cold months ahead.  What many may or may not realize is exactly how bad our weather can get during the winter months.  I'm talking nights that are -30 and day's that don't break zero with well over a 100 inches of snow thrown in.  Some years are milder and easier to manage while others are like last year and never seem to end.  The one big difference we''ll have this year is that Caden has made the decision not to play hockey.  Financially this will greatly benefit us while looking for a new home further south and mentally I think he needed the break from the rigors and demand the sport requires.

So that's a brief summary of what's been going on.  I have some other posts already in the wings that I'm hoping to finally finish now that winter is bringing about a much slower period of my year.  I have some other things planned for this winter to get accomplished that I'll get into the the coming weeks but needless to say I don't intend to just sit around with my finger up my ass like I have seemed to do the past couple of winters.  Now that we're going into our third winter in this location I have a much better understanding of what it is that we're facing this coming season and I'm hoping this knowledge will help me get more accomplished.  This of course in reliant upon Shawna's health holding but even if there are hiccups this winter, and I expect there will be, if Caden and I work together, and with the knowledge that our family has local help from some great people if needed, I fully expect this winter will not be like the past two and be a hell of a lot easier on all of us.  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11

For anyone who's old enough to remember, September 11th, 2001 is one of those days where, like the assassination of JFK and attack on Pearl Harbor, you remember where you were, what you're were doing, and who you were with when you heard that two planes had hit the twin towers in New York.  You probably also remember the same details when you heard a plane hit the pentagon and also about United Airlines flight 93 crashing in a field in Pennsylvania; which was apparently on its way toward Washington as well before passengers attempted to retake the plane.  While I remember details about all the events, the most vivid is when I first found out what was going on.  I was sitting in my freshman english class at Husson College (now University) when my professor's phone rang. She stepped out of the room and when she returned it was with an ashen look on her face.  She informed us that a airplane had hit the north tower in New York.  While we were all in class with no access to the news at the time, her husband worked for a local news affiliate.  At the time we were all a little dumbstruck at hearing the news and because we were in a college setting and people attend from all over the US, she asked if anyone needed to leave to check on family.  To my recollection no one did.

A short time later her phone rang and again she stepped from the room.  When she reentered it was easy to tell something was very wrong.  She almost had a look of panic though she was attempting to keep herself composed.  Her first words were, "We're fucked, we're sooo fucked."  With that we were all put on edge as she informed us that we were under attack.  It was somber and sobering to know that our nation was changed forever.  As we exited the class and I entered the student lounge, tv's had been brought from other areas and set up and students were gathered round watching various news channels.  At the time I had a suspended license and had to wait for a ride so I headed to the dorms and spent the next few hours with some friends watching, discussing, and going through the range of emotions that I think most American's did.

This is just my story of the day though.  While the day certainly had an impact, for me there was nothing direct.  For many others, like my wife's family, the day was very different.  On that day her dad was supposed to be working at the pentagon.  Unbeknownst to her and others his meeting has been transferred last minute to Alabama.  There was a heavy deal of panic as they attempted to locate him and the memories of that still linger for them.  Still, for others there were hours of attempting to get through to loved ones and sadly for many there were calls that would never be achieved.  It's a day that's remembered for many reasons and no two stories are the same.

I have another post I've begun that gets into the after but that's for another day.  Today, as we remember that day, let us not just remember the events, but the people.  Those innocents that perished.  The first responders who made the ultimate sacrifice so that others could live.  The men and women who spent days and months searching for survivors and later on, the remains so that families could get at least a small amount of closure.  The men and women who took up arms when the nation asked them too.  The nation was shaped that day and the events have had a long lingering effect on everyone in this nation but particularly those who were there and those who spent a vast amount of time oversees because of it.  Today let's take the time to remember them, all of them; the people, our fellow countrymen, and put into action a plan to make ourselves better in honor of their sacrifice.    

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Validation

Before I get into the actual subject of my post, I noticed the other day that while I've been not sharing our actual identity since I began this blog over a year ago, I hadn't turned off the feature that showed my real name at the bottom.  Whoops!  LOL.  I guess using fake names is kind of out at this point so before I go any further, I figured I'll go ahead and let any readers know that my name is actually Justin.  My wife is Shawna not Marilyn, my step-son is Caden not Jimmy (though his getting himself in hot water like Jimmy Neutron still stands) and our dogs name is Kane.  From here forward I figure there's no sense in keeping it quiet since more and more people are associating the blog with me anyways.  Who knows, perhaps I'll actually share it myself at some point..

So, back to the topic at hand.  Because of where we live, Shawna is involved in the ARCH program which means that essentially the VA sub contracts out Dr.s for her to visit closer to our home since we live 250 miles away from the nearest VA hospital (Togus) and about 200 miles away from the nearest VA facility (Bangor).  This could and is changing for everyone I believe as a new law that's passed will allow military veterans to see Dr's outside the VA if you live further than 40 miles, but it hasn't yet.  Anyways, this is how we ended up with her last neurologist, the one I was bitching about a few months ago.  Thankfully she left and is no longer practicing in the area so we don't have to visit her ignorant ass ever again.  This left us with an issue however.  My wife had no neurologist in the area.  So, the VA scheduled her to go to Togus to see the one she had previously.  Being that it's a 500 mile, 10 hour round trip we'd decided to cancel said appointment but as of Thursday hadn't yet done so.

Then I spoke to our home care nurse on Thursday afternoon...I'm so very glad that I did!  Shawna and I had been discussing for awhile going outside the VA to get the opinion of someone not associated with them.  If I have to tell you why we felt it may be a good idea to do so, please do yourself a favor and google 'VA scandals'.  With this in mind we decided to take some advice and see a certain neuro located in Presque Isle and to cancel the appointment at Togus on Friday to save the headache that is traveling that freakin far.  However, after speaking to our nurse, we decided to make the trip.  We'd be seeing her old Dr, the one she had when she originally arrived back in Maine, and if nothing else we'd be in a better place to get her the second opinion from the neurologist in PI.  It was the best decision we could have made!

I, and I think my wife as well, entered into the appointment very apprehensive.  Our last appointment with her a year and a half or two years ago hadn't gone particurally well and I left there being quite pissed off.  It was the beginning of my experiences hearing the term "pseudoseizures" thrown about with no real evidence other than they couldn't figure the cause of her symptoms.  I was expecting more of the same and figured the appointment was going to take about 20 minutes and then we'd be on our way annoyed we'd driven so far to hear a bunch of bullshit...Now, if there's one thing I was taught it's that when you're right you stand your ground and when you're wrong you admit it and take whatever necessary actions are required.  Thankfully, in this case a simple admission will do.  Because, boy, was I ever WRONG!

Our appointment was nothing short of amazing!  By far the best doctors appointment I been to with Shawna.  What we were saying was being listened too, she was answering questions before we could ask them, she was giving us information as to what possible problems there may be, we have four or five new tests that Shawna is going to be taking. AND, I think best of all for my wife, the doctor was believing the things she was saying!  I was floored and excited at the same time.  When I described Shawna's seizures she listened and said, and I want to quote this, "those are not pseudo seizures.  Those are tonic."  I was so fucking happy that someone finally listened to what I had been saying for two years I almost hollered"'WOOOOO HOOO!" And for my wife to be validated, well that felt equally as good as I swear I saw about 50lbs fall off her back.  Apparently in the nearly two years since our last visit to her, she's had multiple people come in from Shawna's generation of service with similar symptoms.  This led her to the conclusion that while a single person experiencing these health issues could possibly be psychological in nature, to have multiple people complaining of the same problems pointed to something else entirely.  It was a validation for my wife that she definitely needed.  And to top it all off, not only did she not chastise Shawna for using natural supplements to help with her pain, tremors, and seizure prevention; she encouraged her to continue and actually asked for more information about them and who makes them so she could do further research!  Never in my life have a seen a doctor of any kind do that.

So, where are we going from here.  We'll be going to see another neuro that's located closer to us  to get their opinion as well.  We'll get Shawna signed up for the testing though it could take awhile because with Caden starting back to school this week it's difficult to make trips where we could be gone for days unless he's on vacation.  She'll continue with the natural treatments and take what tests we can arrange locally and both of us will push forward with our own research so we have questions to ask when we attend appointments.  Though there is obviously still no diagnosis, for the first time since I've met my wife is feels as though there is some hope at the end of the tunnel.  And that, that is one hell of a great feeling.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Learning

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the passing of actor/comedian Robin Williams last week.  Unbeknownst to the general public at the time, Mr. Williams had suffered from depression on and off for years before taking his own life.  It's an event that's played out all too often, especially among veterans.

As I've stated previously in this blog, I myself, am not a veteran.  However, I retain close relationships with many within my family, friends, and other social circles.  Because of this and my desire to study and understand human behavior, I'm often involved in conversations and reading material from a variety of sources that pertain to the military and stories and accounts of aftercare, the VA, ect.  While I can, in no-way, have a perfect or complete understanding of military life or many of the post-service problems that arise, by educating myself as much as possible I'm enabled to better receive and communicate with my friends and family when and if I'm require too.  Being that I'm married to and a caretaker for a veteran, this course of action has helped me to help her to the best of my ability many times over.

It is currently estimated that 22 veterans in the United States commit suicide every day.  Twenty Two... That equates to 8030 veteran suicides a year.  It's a number that seems so unbelievably high that it nearly betrays belief.  However, that's 8030 families that are all too aware of exactly how believable it is.  In the past few days I've seen the same question come up over and over.  Why is the suicide of Robin Williams making so much news both in this country and around the world while the veteran suicide rate seems to be nothing more than a blip on the radar?  I hope I can at least give a partial answer, or at least display some intelligence while conveying what my thoughts are.

The one main thing that Williams had that most, if not all the veterans don't have, is the vast connection with so many others.  I'm not referring to family or friend connections.  Williams connected with people all over the world.  They saw him in movies, on tv, doing comedy, and making trips overseas to entertain the troops.  He was very likable and came across as approachable.  He was someone who you felt like you'd want to know.  And he was real.  He wasn't surrounded by a hoard of hangers on and didn't speak in the third person.  When you saw him do an interview you felt as if you knew him.  And that's why I believe his death has resonated with people the way it has.  You felt as though you lost someone you knew personally. I never have much of a response to the death of a celebrity, suicide or otherwise.  But Williams death was different, it did mean something to me.

Seeing Dead Poets Society when I was in my early teens and then again as I got older, made me think about things in a different way and perhaps in someways shaped the way I've made decisions in life.  That's no small feat for anyone.  The only other people that have had the effect on my life are my family and closest friends.  You see, I don't think that his death is important to people simply because he's a celebrity; I think it's important to people because in some way he had an impact on their life.  I'm positive all of the 22 vets who commit suicide daily have had impacts on the lives of others also, but it's not seen and therefore doesn't seem as personal.  I don't believe that most people think losing 22 vets per day is unimportant, but it is my belief that they don't hold the same personal connection they felt with the Williams death and therefore  it's simply not as important in their lives.  This is not to degrade them or discount their service, it's simply human nature to react differently to the death of someone depending on the impact they've had in our lives.

A couple of years ago, perennial Pro-Bowl selection and likely future NFL Hall-Of-Famer Junior Seau committed suicide.  He did so in a way that his brain would be left to science to be examined.  At the time, the link between multiple blows to the head, TBI, and depression was still in it's infancy.  There had been other former players that had also committed suicide but it was his death that awoke the public consciousness.  Why?  He had name recognition yes, but he also presented him self as a very likable person.  An every man who was living his dream and unlike many athletes, who showed up to work hard everyday because he was aware of how lucky he was to be in that position.  The news of his death hit the sports world like wild fire and then transferred over to the public at large.  Since then a mountain of data has become available on the connection between TBI and emotions and strides are being made in treating people not only on the athletic field of play, but those involved in accidents involving head trauma as well as injuries received on the battlefield.  Had it not been for his popularity and name recognition scientists might still be attempting to make the connections.

Why would I bring this up?  Because I'm hoping the same thing can happen with the death of Robin Williams.  Perhaps we can finally release depression from the prision of taboo subjects and some strides can be made as to the how's and why's and treatments that help solve the issues rather than simply treat the symptoms can become available.  That soldiers and others can get the treatments they need without having to deal with the social stigma.  If, after all, a man who seemed so happy and alive and took so much joy bringing others happiness can fall prey to such a horrible disease, can't anyone?  It's time we knock down the barriers and have some open and honest conversations with each other about this disease.  It's time we stopped looking at those with depression as somehow broken or unfit and realize that it can truly happened to anyone, soldiers and civilians alike.  It's time we look around at each other and realize that it doesn't take that much fucking effort to ask someone how they're doing, to pick up the phone and give them a call, to tell them you're there to listen if they need you, or to simply tell them you love and care about them.  And you know what, if the depression caused suicide of Robin Williams helps us to achieve those goals and others I'm likely forgetting, than the attention that his death has brought can't be a bad thing.


      

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Busy Summer

I've been away from this for far too long.  The truth is this summer has been crazy busy but it's not that I couldn't have found a few minutes here and there to get a post written, it's that when I've sat to write I ended up thinking about a million other things and posts don't get finished.  I have four of them that are half done currently and awaiting me to finish and post them.  So how is it that this one got written?  I have a limited need to come up with original thought as I'm basically recapping what's happened.  LOL.  It's much easier to simply put down what I've/we've been up to with basically not commentary about it.

Jimmy was supposed to spend the summer with his dad but that got cut short three weeks in.  Middle school football up here starts in the middle of the summer not at the end like we were anticipating so it required him to come back 5 weeks early.  This was an understandable bummer for him and his dad and step mom but all of us want Jimmy to be able to participate in things he enjoys and he's been talking about playing football for over a year so we made it happen.  I'm hoping when the season is over we can get him an extra weekend or two down there before the next sports season arrives.

Marilyn has joined the local American Legion and been super busy with her pottery.  It's grown to the point where we can barely contain it in the house!  She has 3 huge projects going on right now that need to all be complete in the next couple months so there are days when we barely see each other.  First up on the list?  Completing a new sculpture piece that will be unveiled at Freedom Fest next month.

Speaking of Freedom Fest, she and I have both become involved with volunteering to help insure it's success.  She's been coming up with some great ideas and seeing them through and I've been volunteering time to help get the venue ready for the all day event that will be raising money to build a new Veteran Center in the area.  So many people from different walks of life are coming together to help this thing go off as smoothly as possible, it's truly been a great experience.  In the next couple of days or weeks I'll hopefully have another post dedicated to the event itself.

Since we're staying here at least another year, I've been busy at work trying to get our firewood for the year.  It's definitely a more difficult task with no tractor to help get the wood out but it's coming along.  Along with the daily chores and other things that pop up it's certainly been a busy summer thus far with no signs of slowing down.  Hopefully my brain will begin to though because it's hard to become a writer when you don't write.

 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

New Home Search

House shopping sucks.  That's the conclusion I've come too anyways.  I was told when this started what a pain in the ass it would be and I can verify that those people were correct. It's not just dealing with the actual process of finding a place that fits all your wants and needs.  It's also dealing with the banks, mortgage lenders, insurance companies, tax assessors, and so on.  It seems like people are just appearing out of the damn woodwork that we have to either work with, or try to work around.  Pain. In. The. Ass.  I seriously thought planning and executing a wedding sucked.  It has nothing on this process.

Right now our biggest issues is simply finding a place that we both agree on.  For me, the biggest concern is the amount of land we get.  I grew up on and currently live on what many would consider a pretty large parcel of real estate.  I realize I'm going to have to downgrade what I'm used to but in order to both be happy and live the kind of live I want I need enough land to create some sustainability.  And acre or two isn't enough to do that.  So now I've dropped from the 30-50 acres I desired to 20 or perhaps a little less if the house and location fits our needs.  Since we're working within a pretty tight budget, it's driving my stress level through the roof.  I don't want to settle.  I feel as though I made my decision on which college to attend because I hurried and settled and now I'm paying for something that I don't find the value in.  I'm not planning on making that mistake a second time.  Especially on a a second very expensive investment.

This is just one requirement for a home.  Like everyone in our situation, there are many others.  How are the schools in the area?  How far are we from various amenities such as the gym I wish to rejoin and hockey for Jimmy?  How close is quality medical care? (A big reason for wanting to move is the lack thereof in our current location).  And then there's the fact that Marilyn needs a big enough space to set up her pottery studio and a first floor bedroom.  It seems like there are a hundred little things that must be taken into consideration before we can say, "This is it.  This is where I want to spend the next 50 years of my life."  On a good note, however, is the fact that we're open to home that may need a little work.  Or, at least require work that will still allow us to be cleared by our mortgage broker.  I'm fairly handy so upgrades and/or improvements that need to be made won't be an issue.  This could potentially allow us to get a little more house for our dollar.

Interestingly enough, I wrote all the above and then things changed again!  HA!  We've had some hiccups with our initial mortgage information and found out that we currently qualify for less than initially presented.  We could still purchase a home but it would likely be closer to a town and have almost not property attached.  This is a big no-no for me.  This new information led us to looking at renting a home.  However, this would seriously interfere with our lifestyle.  Trying to find a place to rent that is set up, or could be set up for Marilyn's pottery studio would be nearly impossible.  Not to mention she has two huge orders that need to be filled by this fall.  We simply don't have enough time to create a studio space for her.  But through all the stress of the past couple of days another option became available.  It looks like if we're willing to stay another winter, a new heating system will be installed which will drastically reduce our winter costs as well make being able to leave for a day or two in the winter without fear of the pipes freezing plausible.  While I am in no way looking forward to spending another winter up here and being away from the things I desire to to do for another year, when we sat and looked at options it seems like the most reasonable.  We learned a lot after the first winter, even more last year, and I think by the time this next one rolls around we'll be in much better shape.  I only hope that we don't get hammered next winter like we did this one because damn, having the harshest winter in over 60 years sucked ass.

If I'm learning one thing throughout this process, it's that things can change in a moment.  We're constantly learning and doing what we can to apply our new knowledge.  Stepping back from time to time to look at the big picture seems to be a key in quality decision making.  While we're certainly anxious to find a home and move, to do so in a way that's detrimental to us in the long term is not a mistake we wish to make.  The mortgage crisis of 08' highlighted the fact that over burdening oneself with a large mortgage is not a good idea.  At the same time trying to find something you're going to be happy with does play a role.  Waking up and feeling miserable about something you're paying a good portion of your monthly income too isn't a position anyone wants to find themselves in.  


Sunday, May 11, 2014

Back Again

When I sat down today, I knew that it had been a little while since I'd last written.  However, I didn't realize that it had been nearly 6 weeks!  It's amazing how from time to time it feels as though life can get away from us.  We begin to make lists and write things down only to have other obligations take precedent over what we initially thought was important.  That's kind of how it's been around here.  Things have been moving back and forth from the front burner to the back and vise versa more than a meal in Chef Ramsey's kitchen.

Regardless, I'm back now and ready to put out some work.  First and foremost, I want to wish a very Happy Mothers Day to all the mom's out there!  I'm currently sitting in my office trying to hammer out a little work but later today will be time for a nice cooked meal and some quality time together with my wife.  I'll be making some phone calls to the women in my life who insured that I made it this far, and I'm hoping to get the wife and boy in the car and go visit a friend of ours who's two children are away; on as a member of the USAF and the other a sophomore in college.  The woman I've had in my life up to this point have been nothing short of phenomenal and this is one of the few holidays I'm grateful exists.  While I try to thank them as often as possible throughout the year, it's nice that there is a day set aside to recognize their efforts and the love and compassion they've shown us.

So what have I been up to the past few weeks?  It feels like we've literally been on the run.  The misses has had appointment after appointment (with another one this week).  The boy is now doing outdoor track and has had practice and meets.  He went down with his dad for April vacation and Marilyn and I spent the week looking at homes.  We've been trying to get out financial house in order to qualify for a mortgage when we do find the right one.  And to top it off I've been under the weather on and off for the past week.  Oh yeah, and the weather has finally turned and all the damn white stuff left by mother nature during the winter is finally gone!  All this has obviously been mixed in with the day to day happenings of life (of which you can read about here).  However, one great thing that has happened, is now that the winter has finally passed I can use my office above the garage again!  No more trying to sit and do things in the living room where everyone is running around, watching tv, talking, and the dog has the desire to play...ALL THE TIME!  HA!  Boy, I love that dog but he's sure full of energy.  Spring has arrived and with it has come the annual renewal of energy that anyone who lives in a cold weather climate understands well...including dogs apparently.

I had all intentions on going into more detail during this post but I'm afraid if I do it'll get confusing so I'll shut it down here with the intention of creating another in the next day or two (however, we all know about intentions right?). Take today to remind the important women in your life that you love and are thankful for them.  If you're a mom, take a moment to sit with your feet up and enjoy the wonderfulness you've brought into the world.  Remember, while it may be the big things that get all the recognition, it's the simple things that make the most difference.




Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not As Easy As I Thought

Honestly, I didn't know what to expect when becoming a caretaker for my wife.  It seemed like it wouldn't be a big deal, that hard, or overly stressful.  I honestly thought that it wouldn't be that life changing.  All the shit I was told about making sure I take care of myself and using my support system I kind of brushed aside because "I knew" all that already.  Unfortunately I knew all that already in theory and not from ever really experiencing it.  I saw my mother, grandmother, and grandfather do it when my great gram was coming to the end of her life.  I knew what I was getting in to and it wouldn't be an issue...I'm finding out that all the things I knew, didn't add up to "piss hole in the snow" as my grandfather would say, once I began putting them into practice.

I don't tend to talk much or open up about my feelings.  I'm a work in progress on that front but still have a god damn long ways to go.  I'm aware of it but it still doesn't make it any easier to do it.  I swallow and bottle and believe that my shoulders are strong enough to take on my issues and anyone else's that I care about.  I suppose it's why people come to me with things.  Unfortunately, while I can help them with issues I haven't always been able to help myself.  I've often been so busy helping others take care of their problems, mine get masked over and I keep pushing them further and further down the list of necessary items to take care of. In this kind of life that will eventually lead to issues.

I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have a support system.  And I'm not just talking about people who'll tell you what you want to hear or just try to make you feel better, though there can be a time and place for that.  I'm talking about friends and family who are the kind of people that will tell you when you're doing something wrong and are acting like a douche.  The people who can see that's something isn't right and will say something or ask questions without you having to approach them.  Who understand that you're not having issues because you're weak but you're having them because, like carrying a 50 lb weight on your back, eventually you get tired and have to unload that shit before continuing on.  They can put your mind as easy and let you know that it's ok to let your guard down and talk to them without having to censor your feelings or thoughts.  Those are the people to search out when seeking support.

I'll be honest.  I don't tell my wife everything that's going on in my head and I don't expect that she does with me either.  I know she's aware of that fact and I know this bothers her somewhat.  We try to protect those that we love and guard them from any unnecessary hurt or concern.  That's when the support system is most necessary.  It allows you to get things out in the open and free your mind without causing any undo stress.  Sometimes what you reveal may stay strictly between you and the one you're opening up to and other times that second point of view may reveal other approaches that allow you to open up to your loved one.  That depends on many things including what the information is, the circumstances, ect.

Having a support system is very influential to the other major facet of being a caretaker:  Taking care of yourself.  This encompasses so many different variables that I'm not sure I can touch on them all but there are a few key ones for me.  Diet, fitness, and hobbies.  Here's some truth.  If you're in poor health how are you going to be able to take care of someone else and insure that they're in the best health possible?  You can't.  If I'm cooking and eating nothing but prepackaged foods and serving fatty cakes and coke what is that going to do for us?  I'm going to be tired and lethargic all the time and am likely going to end up causing myself health effects down the road.  This is not conducive to insuring that my loved one is being well taken care of.  Food and exercise also effects my mood and the way I conduct myself.  Bad food makes be feel like shit.  I notice a vast difference in my behavior when I'm eating well vs when I'm eating trash.  My family notices it as well.  I'm almost a different person.  It's the same when I'm not injured and can exercise on a regular basis.  I feel better about myself and in turn I'm a better father and husband for my family.  If you're a caretaker and unaware of good diet and exercise habits, getting in touch with someone who is is vital..  Eating and moving are two necessary, yet often overlooked essentials to this lifestyle and I implore you to work toward getting on the right track for your health and your loved one.

Hobbies is huge.  When I say it's huge, I mean it's ABSOLUTELY FUCKING ESSENTIAL TO YOUR LIFE!  You can live solely for another person for awhile but eventually it's going to catch up to you.  You need to find things that you enjoy and pursue them.  I like to write. It's a hobby (and one that I haven't been very good at keeping up with honestly) but I have other interests I want to pursue as well.  Some of them are on hold at the moment because of where we live but you can bet your ass once we're moved I'm going to be finding some outlets that I enjoy.  You have to.  Living life without doing things one finds interesting, challenging and enjoyable leads to boredom, depression, and oftentimes resent.  Don't let it get that far.  Find a passion and pursue it.  You don't have to put other things on the back burner, especially as a caretaker when you may have a lot of down time between when you're needed.  Use that time to relax your brain and explore your passions.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Missing in Action

Beginning the year I set a goal to write a blog post every week.  Like many New Year's goals, I made it until about a month ago and have run into failure.  I hit a wall with my writing and though I've sat down to write something repeatedly, I could get nothing to come out.  I wouldn't feel quite so guilty about it if I'd been writing something, somewhere but even that was a failure.  But as with any failure, anywhere, where there is failure there is opportunity to learn and improve.

So what led to this particular failure.  I've been stuck in my own damn head.  I'm at the burn out point between Jimmy's hockey schedule, Marilyn's declining or at the very least non-improving health and shitty Dr's, and the weather we've had this winter.  Cabin fever has begun to set in for everyone in the house, even the damn dog.  It's March 27th and last week we had a night where it fell to -13 and we still have about four feet of snow on the ground.  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy snowshoeing but when that's all that really available for you to do and you're an outside kind of person after awhile it wears on you.

But the reality is those are just excuses.  They're daily obsticles to overcome and work around and that's what I've been focusing on the past couple of weeks.  While I haven't written anything of record until today, I did begin writing in a daily journal once again a few days ago.  It's nothing big, mostly reporting on the weather and what I did throughout the day but it's writing.  And I'm finding even with that I fit in a few personal observations now and then so it's beginning to help break down some barriers.

I've been on contact with some friends with open ears.  Living up where we do, so far away from my support system was rough this winter.  I had no time to get away for even a day or two for over 6 months due to Jimmy's hockey schedule and that locked me in at home with no way to relieve stress or to really talk to anyone about what was going on in my head.  Yes, I could talk to my wife.  But that's not what I need(ed).  Sometimes you need independet third parties to either listen or tell you to stop being a bitch.  Those are the people I've been in contact with.  A good support system isn't just there to make you feel better, it's there to pick you back up when you fall.  While it's not the same as having face to face conversations, I'm very much trying to embrace the use of technology as an aid until we can move closer to those people.

Reading.  This is awesome for a multitude of reasons.  One is that it will help me with my writing.  Writers should read.  It's the best way to improve your craft and any writer will tell you that.  (Believe me, I've read it 100 times at this point).  Another reason why reading is so great is that it can open up your mind and make you see issues from multiple perspectives.  In the past couple of weeks I've read three books which have really helped me.  Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell, The Alchemist by Paulo Coehelo, and The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.  All three books had great messages about living life, overcoming adversity, and goal setting.  One of the main messages I received from all three was to focus on the task at hand and not worry about what's going to come later.  To live in the moment.  This was key to Luttrell getting through BUDS (Basic Underwater Demolition) training (Navy SEAL training for those who aren't aware) and as it was the first of the three I read it was on my mind as I read the other two.  That is an area that I've always had a lot of trouble with and something I'm now striving to make a strength.  Writing this post is part of that process.

Action.  Trying not to sit still can be something to overcome once you hit a point of feeling stuck.  The key to getting unstuck is to begin moving.  Sometimes it's forward but often times you may need to retrace your steps.  Moving back words can be a pain in the ass but is often a necessary pain in the ass.  I had a football coach in high school that used to tell us all the time, "you have to give ground to gain ground."  As I understood it then, stepping back or allowing yourself to be moved back can often put you in a better position to make a play.  It's the same thing with life.  Sometimes we try to push so far forward that we remove ourselves from the optimal position for reaching our goal.  Recognizing this is hard but is necessary.

Keeping a positive mental attitude.  Are some days going to suck?  Absolutely.  Am I going to get down from time to time?  No doubt about it.  However, in those times, if nothing else, I simply try to keep pushing.  If I don't feel great on a particular day or am pissed off, I try get at least one thing done.  Perhaps it's just putting the dishes in the washer or throwing in a load of laundry.  By doing that, it's one less thing on my list.  Even if it's simply something small, I know that when it's done I don't have to worry about it anymore and that free's my mind up a little bit.  The idea of sitting to write this today seemed almost terrifying.  So when I pulled out the computer I did it with the intention of just getting the first paragraph down.  Once that was accomplished I did the second, and so on.  I set a small, attainable goal and let it go from there.  Sometimes that's all that needed to get one started.

Regardless of everything else, this winter has been a learning experience and has been fairly enlightening.  Both myself and my wife have learned about of lot of things we're not overly happy with which is turn has and will continue to open up our minds in search of things that we prefer.  Moving is one of those.  While we like many things about our current location, it's time to move on and to find a home that's better suited to our needs.  However, we tried it and I feel as though for the most part we've succeeded in what we were attempting to learn and experience living here.  And as always, when times get tough, we try to step back and enjoy the simple things.    

Sunday, February 23, 2014

A New Endeavor

This is a little early in the process but I'm pretty excited so I thought why the hell not write about the beginning of this new endeavor and then perhaps do some updates along the way?  I am, after all, the king/president/CEO of this blog and since I don't have shareholders I can do whatever the hell I want right?! I'm pretty positive I can relate this to my life as a caretaker (not that I have to for above mentioned King reasons) and perhaps break some stigma about men doing what is normally seen as a woman's activity.  So, what exactly have I begun?  Yoga.

So why would I begin yoga?  Well, I'll get to that.  First off I should probably describe myself a little further.  I'm 6'0" - 6'1" depending on the day, currently 280ish pounds, tattooed, bearded.  I look like a lumberjack basically.  Some day's people would probably swear that I'm simply making my yearly visit to town from my cabin in the woods.  Not exactly the key demographic for those marketing their yoga business.  However, what I did have was a serious interest in doing something that could help my recover from some previous injuries and perhaps learn how to calm and relieve myself from stress.  And that, I believe is a key when deciding to learn this practice.

When I made the decision to do this I knew I didn't want to simply sign up for a class and try to learn with 15 or 20 other people.  Since this is such a serious departure from anything I've ever done fitness wise, I wanted some one on one instruction so I could learn properly and if I had questions, get them answered immediately so I could apply the lessons.  Originally I attempted to contact a local instructor but after weeks of attempting to arrange a time to meet without success, I decided to go in a new direction.  Funny how things work out.  My current instructor was recommended by a friend of the wife and I and it's worked out great!  She's very knowledgeable and only goes as fast as I'm ready for.  Sometimes this means we can breeze right through a lesson and other times we slow down and make it work for me.  Since we're beginning from the ground up the first classes have had a lot of focus on proper breathing with only a couple of different poses.  However, it hasn't taken long for me to learn that what seems like the most simple of movements, when done properly, can make your whole body work.  The best example of this was the other day.  She had me doing a pose that basically looked like I was standing still.  However, because of the way she had be moving each muscle in about two minutes the sweat was starting to roll off my forehead.  Pretty awesome.

Like I said, I'm only a couple of classes in so this is just the beginning.  But I'm hooked.  I already can't wait to get back to it this week.  After the classes I feel better, more relaxed.  This is not to say that I want to give up weight training in the future.  On the contrary, one of my biggest motivations in doing yoga is to rebuild my body so I can return to pushing, pulling, and moving heavy pieces of iron.  Even then though, I realize I want yoga to become a part of my life and Marilyn and I have been discussing getting her involved as well.

So where does all this come into play in my caretaking roll?  First, the better I understand and am able to do the breathing techniques, the better I'll be able to relax and the better I'll be able to respond in high stress situations.  Second, the healthier I am physically the better it is for the family as a whole.  Having much of the responsibility for doing things that require me to use my body, if I'm broke down it puts us all in a bad situation.  The better and more freely my body is able to move, the less likely I am to become injured and as a bonus because my nervous system won't be firing unnecessarily all the time in response to pain and discomfort, the more energy I'll have.  I suppose I could continue talking about all the benefits to the body and how they relate to one another but damn that would take multiple posts and more research for medical terminology than I have time for.  Basically becoming involved in yoga has the benefits you see and the ones you don't.

Sometimes it's necessary for all of us to step outside of comfort zone to learn or become involved in things that have potential benefit.  For me exercise and fitness has generally revolved around weightlifting and running and I tended to not pay attention to stretching and such.  It's come back to bite me in the ass now obviously. However, there are tools to fix this and to not take advantage because of some ridiculous belief that it will somehow make me less masculine or whatever BS, would be plain stupidity.  I challenge everyone reading this to do one thing this week that you're interested in but have been holding off on for whatever reason.  Perhaps you won't like it but perhaps, just perhaps, you'll find something that you thoroughly enjoy.  

Monday, February 10, 2014

Changing Times

Before I begin, if you don't like foul language, this weeks post may not be for you.  However, if you like curse words used within the context of describing what are person's not good at and why; stick around cause I'm ready to lay some shit down for your benefit.

Becoming a caretaker, husband, and step-father all within two years has been quite the departure from single man hood.  I went from a small two bedroom apartment in which I was surrounded by nothing but man things; i.e. pint glasses with beer manufactures printed on them, pictures of athletes on the walls, dishes enough for a couple of people, camo hanging in the closet next to my suits, to now living in a fully functional house complete with family pictures on the walls, a youth hockey schedule on the fridge next to graded papers, and whole range of glasses that have no alcohol affiliation on them.  The four wheel drive pickup truck I drove everyday has been replaced with an SUV (still have the truck, just not the money to make the necessary repairs).  And obviously the 'do what I want when I want' mentality has been replaced with, 'what's on the agenda today'.  And you know what, I wouldn't go back to those other days in a second.  I love my life.  However, what I've found is that I'm much better at some things in this new life than others...

Like most people, I have my strengths and weaknesses.  I'm not going to get into my strengths here because well, it's boring to listen to people talk about what they're good at.  What's not boring, is to listen to someone talk about and describe what they suck at!  Be honest with yourself, you know you've laughed when listening to someone going into detail about situations that were an absolute disaster.  So what are my weaknesses in my new life.  First off cleaning.  I fucking suck at it.  Most of the time the house looks like a god damn bomb went off.  There is almost always dirty laundry stacked in front of the washing machine and clean laundry in baskets in the living and bedrooms.  It's gotten to the point I've thought about doing the laundry nude just so I can know what it's like to have every piece of clothing in the house clean, folded, and put away.  Well maybe I'll wear a tie if I ever do.  I could feel a little more professional that way...But I digress.  It's the same thing with the dishes.  We have a relatively small kitchen and more than one occasion I've planned dinner around the fact there were simply too many dishes to do in order to cook a proper meal.  Yes, I just said that.  But when it's 6pm and you know it'll take you an hour to wash all the dishes because you're slower than molasses going up hill on a cold day doing them and the dishwasher works so well it takes two fucking hours to complete a cycle, other arrangements become kinda necessary.  And yes, the idea of simply having the dog clean every plate for me has, in-fact, cross my mind on more than one occasion.

We live in an old style log cabin so everything is always covered in dust and spiderwebs.  There's dog hair on the floor from the 80 lb Shepard running around, and a couple piles of shit that we don't want or need anymore in different corners of the house.  Marilyn's pottery studio has moved from just being on the porch to taking up a large area of the hallway and area next to the kitchen.  And clutter, holy fuck me running do we have clutter!  It's like a clutter bomb went off in this sum bitch and every time I clean it up and reorganize something new takes it's place quickly after.  I'm not even sure where have the shit comes from.  I don't buy anything to speak of and yet, shit appears out of the blue.  I swear sometimes ghosts are running around this place just dropping shit they find in other houses they're haunting just to mind fuck me.  But these all pale in comparison to my true nemesis...the thing that drives me more insane than anything....COOKING!

I HATE, HATE, HATE COOKING!!.  I hate cooking more than the New York Yankees.  As an avid Red Sox fan that's saying something.  The question, "what are we having for dinner" makes me want to insert ski poles into my ears and have someone take a damn hammer to each of them to insure they don't come back out.  Of all the things I ever did to my mother growing up, uttering those words are the ones I'm most regretful for because I now understand how intensely insane the question can drive a person.  How the holy hell my grandmother put up with my grandfather asking it for 50 years is beyond me.  I praise the lord (well I would if I was religious) that she didn't kill him in a fit of insanity one afternoon after he asked it.  It's not the fact that I'm a bad cook because I'm actually not, it's the act of cooking itself I don't like.  Perhaps it's a patience thing.  Just standing there waiting for things to get to the point where you remove, flip, ect.  But there's something.  Quite honestly, it's likely one of the reasons why I have trouble eating enough (apparently in order to lose weight it's recommend that you eat if you're an active person.  I understand the basic principles but if you want more detail I'll leave you to google for that), I simply don't want to cook anymore than I have to.  Now, before you get all freaked out, life is full of things that we must do that we don't enjoy, so yes I do cook and I cook mostly from scratch.  There's a few nights here and there that pre-made food; chicken fingers, fries, ect, end up on the menu but it's not very often.  I don't want that shit entering my body so I obviously don't want to feed it to my family for the most part either.

So there you have it.  A 6'+ tall, 275 lb bearded male who prefers to be outdoors participating in sports and working with his hands doesn't enjoy doing housework everyday.  Kind of shocking isn't it?  Regardless, we do the best we can around here and make sure that the home is safe and everyone is well fed.  I'm certainly no Martha Stewart or Mr. Belvedere but I suppose it could be worse.  I look forward to winter being gone and being able to sit out on the porch with some steaks on the grill and a cold beer in my hand.  That's some cooking I don't mind.  Until that time however, I'll continue to plug away at projects that never end and wonder how the hell the woman in my life have done it all these years without putting me in the hospital or in the ground.  My only guess, even if being a homemaker isn't my strong suit I must be good for something!   

Monday, February 3, 2014

Fear

We all have fear though it could be different from person to person.  I'm certainly no different.  One of my biggest fears is being trapped under the ice.  Given that I live in a cold climate and ice fishing and snowmobiling is a big part of the culture here it's not an entirely crazy fear to have either.  I don't have the money to snowmobile but I am looking to get into ice fishing by next winter so it will be necessary for me to work on that fear at some point.

But that's not the fear I'm talking about.  The fear I'm referring to in this post is something I don't talk about with my wife or anyone else.  Something that may upset her when she reads it here because while I'm pretty sure she's aware it exists, I shut down the one time she attempted to discuss it with me.  It's something I keep buried down into the deepest bowels of myself and it only comes out to play now and again, mostly so I can mentally prepare for it.  The fear I'm talking about is the fear that whatever her medical problems are, if continued to go unsolved, could someday take her from me much faster than I want or am planning.

Her seizures only play a small part.  I'm well aware that they have the potential to be catastrophic.  I had a classmate pass away from a seizure in her sleep not long after we graduated.  It's why I'm on my toes and don't sleep if the dog is alerting or I feel a change in her body chemistry indicating that a seizure may be coming along.  Why I monitor her breathing after she's had one.  Why, on nights when she's not feeling well and her breathing becomes shallow I monitor her for hours.  Why, in the past, I've done subtle things that will create a response while she's sleeping just so I can make sure she's aware enough to move on her own.

So what do I do and how do I manage this fear?  I push it down, I don't talk about it, and I only let it come out to play once in a while.  I use to prepare and train myself.  In those times I run through scenario after scenario of what ifs to be prepared in the event I have to jump into action.  I use to as much as I can to be mentally and physically prepared.

I know I should probably talk about such things more, if not with my wife than with someone else but I won't.  You're probably wondering why, which is certainly a valid question.  So here's my thoughts on this.  Fear can suck and it can wear you down and bring along a whole host of others problems.  However, fear, if harnessed, can also be a benefit.  Fear keeps you own your toes, makes you react quicker, and can make you work harder and pay more attention to your surroundings and whats taking place around you if you're prepared for it.  That's how I see this fear.  For me it's a trade off.  As I mentioned above, it's not a constant just something that comes up from time to time and in those times I try to use it to make myself better and make my family safer.  It's not fun, can be quite upsetting, and not something I'd ever want for other people but in our life I find it to be a necessity.

I'm not even sure why I chose to go with this topic this week.  I guess it was because I had one of those 'pop up' late last week and it's on the brain.  Like many thoughts, they come in the quite moments when you're all alone with nothing but your own brain to keep you company.  I don't have PTSD and honestly I think this pales in comparison but it is something I deal with on a regular basis.  I'm not sure if others in similar situations do as well but if that's the case I hope while reading they realize they're not alone and it's ok.  It's ok to have fear, it's ok to be unsure of what you're feeling and why.  It's ok to seek help and someone to talk to if you need it and it's ok to hold it close if you feel that's what's right.  Regardless of the path you choose to take, you need to do what's right for you and what you feel is most beneficial but I would recommend keeping a close eye on yourself for signs that it has become too much.  Remember, if you're unable to take care of yourself it's going to be hard to take care of your loved one.



  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Pushing Forward

It's funny how you can be doing or watching something and all of a sudden you realize that there's a hidden meaning in what you're witnessing.  It happened to me this weekend.  The message isn't what got me but rather the bearer of that message.  Jimmy's Pee Wee hockey team.

On Saturday they played against what could be considered a rival team.  Coming into the game they were 1-2 against this team including a pretty bad loss in a tourney championship game.  Jimmy was pretty jacked going in to play them and thus far I've enjoyed watching their games because two out of the three had been very competitive.  And the first two periods on Saturday were no different.  It was back and forth, good plays being made my both teams and as they entered into the third period the score was tied 4-4.  It was shaping up to be another memorable game with a great ending.

Beginning the third period Jimmy's team put another shot in the net and took the lead 5-4.  It was after that the wheels came off.  Only a minute of two later their competitors scored to tie it up.  And then a minute later they scored again to go up 6-5.  And then they scored again, and a again, and again, and again, closing out the game with 6 unanswered goals to take a 10-5 win.  Momentum had swung and they fell into quick sand.  No matter what they did it didn't work and as each goal went in you could see the kids body language change from competition to the realization they were going to lose the game.

On Sunday they had another game a fair distance away.  On the ride Jimmy and I talked some about the game and I gave him my standard advice when asked what I wanted to see from him that day:  Play hard, do your best, and listen to you coach.  No "score a goal or get an assist" or "work on your shot or skating".  Those are things for practice and will come with practice.  Games are for showing what you've learned and applying them to the best of your ability and I impress that on him before every game.  What I didn't know at that time is they would do that and more.  They would present a life lesson if one were inclined to look for it.

Once the game began it was like they'd completely forgot about the day before and what had happened.  They were all flying around the ice and making plays.  Getting shots on goal an controlling the speed and flow of the game.  At the end of the first period they were up 1-0.  As the game wore on and they played the second period their confidence seemed to build and they put in a couple more goals.  By the end of the game it didn't matter who was on the ice, they were skating hard and playing as well as they had all season and they finished the game with a 6-1 victory. It was an amazing transformation to watch from one day to another.  

So where was the message in all this?  On one day they couldn't seem to get anything to go right.  No matter what they did it seemed to backfire on them.  However, rather than simply giving up they continued to play the game and take their bumps and bruises.  The kept working hard to try and change the outcome even though they could see it simply wasn't their day.  But that work proved fruitful the next day.  They put the previous day and game behind them and began fresh.  They were able to apply the lessons from the previous day and translate those lessons into a good, solid win.  This is something we can all learn from.  We all have bad days, days that it seems nothing will go right.  Sometimes those days turn into a string of days or even weeks or months.  What's important in those times is to continue to work and improve and take the lessons learned and apply them.  I know when I have frustrating times I can forget this lesson and it took a group of great kids playing a hockey game to remind me.  

In life, like it a sports game, bad things are going to happen and sometimes it's going to feel like everything is against you.  It's up to you to continue to push forward, learn, and make the changes necessary to accomplish your specific goals.  It's also necessary in life, like in a team sport to rely on those around you instead of trying to do it all yourself.  Ask questions and listen to your coach and mentors, lean on your teammates or friends and family to help you get through when you're not performing your best, set a specific goal and work towards it.  And above it all, never give up or give in.  Keep fighting and pushing through each and every day with a goal of being a little better today than you were the day before.  Yes, I was reminded of an important lesson.  And it was a lesson taught by a bunch of kids doing something they love.  Let us all remember those lessons when we're doing the simplest thing of all.  Living.    


Thursday, January 23, 2014

Starting from Scratch

No lie, the end of last week sucked.  But before I begin, I'll step back a bit and give you the history to help you better understand how I got there to begin with.  Back a couple of years ago I pulled/injured my hip flexor pretty seriously.  Honestly, knowing what I know now it was a long time coming.  I had lifted weights, very heavy weights, for years with improper form and it threw off the balance of muscles in my body.  Basically the front half of my body is extremely over developed compared to the back.  So it could be taken as no great surprise that once I corrected my form I was hit with an injury.  At the time it occurred I was squating and felt it happen at the bottom of the movement.  Since there was no one else in the gym at the time I couldn't stop and had to push the weight back to the top of the movement which no doubt didn't help.  I missed 5 days of work and walked favoring one side for quite awhile.

Fast forward to last winter when I re-injured it, not to the same extent but enough to put me on the couch for a few days.  A couple months of letting it heal and then I was doing the Rush Fit home workout program.  I felt great after completing the 80 days in the spring!  Much of my pain was gone and I wasn't having the same amount of days of soreness.  Unfortunately I fell of track and for the past few months had only been doing it periodically.  After Christmas I decided to get back into it, along with adding some additional stretching in an effort to begin rebuilding my body.  And that brings us to Friday.

Friday was day 3 of week 3 of Rush Fit.  Jimmy had a hockey game that night so that afternoon before he arrived home from school I planned to knockout my workout, shower, do a couple quick chores, and then we'd be on our way.  However, as I was nearing completion of the dvd, I went down into an air squat and felt the familiar pain of the muscle in my hip pull.  Immediately the frustration set in of knowing that I was done with my workouts for an undetermined amount of time.

Unfortunately, my night was not over.  Jimmy still had a hockey game that evening which meant 3 hours of driving (round trip time) and roughly an hour and a half of standing.  If you've ever had that injury, the only thing you want to do is lay down with ice on your lower back/hip/butt area and I knew before we set out it was going to be a very uncomfortable evening.  I wasn't wrong.  By the time we got home (from a great game no less and a big win) I hurt.  All I wanted was to lay on the couch with some ice.  Thankfully, the next day Jimmy's coach agreed to take Jimmy with him for the two games (it was a tournament weekend).  However, it still required me to spend roughly an hour on the road to get him to the pick up spot and even that short amount of time was extremely uncomfortable.  I am thankful for Coach taking him on Saturday though.  It allowed me the rest of the day to lay on the couch and rest, which is key for the healing process.

The next couple days were spent rocking R.I.C.E.  (Rest. Ice. Compression. Elevation.)  I've also been in contact with Maralyn's sister who's a massage therapist as well as a local yoga instructor.  After discussions with the wife, I'm taking a whole new approach.  Yes, you read that correctly, my big, hairy, redneck looking body is going to begin yoga.  For everyone's sake I'm forgoing the pants associated with the practice however.  I feel as though I'm going to be starting my health from scratch.  It's ok I guess.  I feel like I don't have much of an option at this point.  What I've been doing isn't working and I'll be damned if I'm willing to give up my health because I'm being stubborn (as my wife will tell you I do that enough by refusing to go to the Dr. for various ailments).

In all honesty, I miss lifting.  I enjoy it, it's a great physical release, and I have friends who are into it as well.  Not to mention one of the reason's I'm so anxious to move is so I can get back to the trainer and gym I was a member of before my initial injury.  However, after this past weekend it's become clear that before I can begin doing it again, reforming and reshaping my body is a necessity.  Not only a necessity for myself, but for my family as well.  Me being down puts everyone in the house out.  Marylyn has to step in and do more which can put her at risk for seizures and falls, Jimmy has to sacrifice time with both of us, and it puts me in the awkward position of needing to postpone healing into order to keep up daily tasks.  It's a no win situation for anyone.

Moving forward, I'm hoping my hip injury days are over with.  I expect I'm going to be uncomfortable once I begin my new workout program but that's ok.  I've done a little yoga and understand how different it is from traditional lifting.  What I have yet to experience is the difference it can make and that's pretty exciting.  It's going to be a long road I suspect to get back to where I want and need to be but thankfully I feel as though I have a map that will help me get to my final destination while avoiding the pitfalls.    


Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Day's In The Life

I don't know if it's a question so much but it seems as though people are curious about what I do on a daily basis.  While it's true, especially in the winter, that I'm not always running around crazy busy, I tend to approach many of my days like a job with a list of tasks to complete.  The truth is though, my days are always different and can change on a moments notice, literally.

I do standard things that most husbands do.  I get up and and make sure Jimmy is awake before making coffee for myself so I can function enough to either help him get ready for school or ask the necessary questions about if he has his homework in his bag, any papers, ect, like I suspect most other parents of a 6th grader do.  I drive him down to meet the bus on days when the weather's nasty (it's about a quarter of a mile from the house to the pickup area) which will become virtually everyday once winter sets in here.  I work on the house and the cars when needed.  I mow, take care of the landscaping, plant the gardens, bring in the firewood in the winter; cut, split, and stack the firewood in the summer; run to the post office to mail out the pottery pieces people have purchased from her, and pretty much anything else you can think of when you think of the husband's role in a marriage.

Together with those I also do the majority of the cooking, the dishes, much of the cleaning and laundry (though Jimmy is beginning to help out more with each of these and Marilyn helps out as much as she can.)  One of the hard things with Marilyn, however, is that if she pushes herself to do much on a given day it actually makes things much harder for a day or two after.  When she gets worn out, she's done and it takes days not minute or hours to recover.  I see on her face the struggle that she has wanting to help when she can but realizing that she needs to guard against pushing herself to much.

Marilyn can't drive so many things are scheduled and arranged around that.  The main VA clinic in the state is 5-6 hours away so that hour long Dr.s appointment is an all day event. If she's not feeling well a two day trip becomes necessary and we stop at my family's house overnight to take a break and let her relax.  What we attempt to do it schedule other things while we're down that way so it's not such a long trip with minimal results but that's not always possible.  Even if the appointment can be done at our 'local' VA clinic, local is a very relative term considering it's still 60 miles away.  Again, we try to arrange other errands around the trip to make good use of our time, but she can only be on the go for so long before she becomes exhausted and we need to get back.  Basically a standard, local appointment including driving and time spent in the doctors office is roughly 4-6 hours give or take.

Also, because she can't drive all of it falls to me.  I do the grocery and other shopping, take Jimmy to hockey practice and games (some of which are up to two hours away), take them both to all appointments, go to the post office when needed, and whatever tasks most people do.  She does come with me sometimes for grocery shopping duty but we've both decided that the task is much easier accomplished when I take care of it myself.  Not to mention, I think she dislikes doing it as much as I do and it's an easy way for her to get out of it.  HA!

If she's had a bad day or night with pain or has had a seizure I change modes and go into medical professional mode (medical professional?  Yeah, it's the best descriptor I can come up with right now).  After care for a seizure breaks down something like this:  If she feels in coming on ahead of time or the dog alerts we get her to a safe place, preferably seated or lying down.  Once the seizure begins I monitor her, wait for the convulsions to subside and then sit with her rubbing her cheek and saying her name until she opens her eyes and acknowledges who I am.  Postictal (unconscious) time can range anywhere from a minute to upwards of 5 on occasion.  After that it's sleepy time for her for anywhere between 4 and 12 hours.  Usually I remain awake throughout that time and check on her periodically as from time to time her breathing can become very shallow.  The dog generally hangs out on the bed as well as her protector.  Once she awakens there in generally a day or two where her mind is very foggy and she's run down and requires a lot of rest.  She's also had times where her speech is pretty severely affected.  When this happens the only way I can describe it is that she speaks like a stroke victim.  It's very clunky, like she's trying to say the words but her body won't allow it.  During the time I've known her this has happened a couple times though her speech is somewhat slowed after nearly every seizure.  It once lasted three days and another time about a week.  Apparently before we got together it happened for a much longer period after one particurally bad seizure and the speech issue lasted for a couple months.

My job after seizures is very similar what I do on days where the pain in her legs gets up to about a 7 or 8 to a 10.  These days either require use of both crutches or her wheelchair.  Often she requires help with various stages of dressing herself, standing up, getting out of bed, and manouvering in and out of the shower during these times.  I spend a lot of time running during these times as well.  Preparing and bringing in food, moving things around, and getting her whatever she requires.  Those days are the most physically and mentally exhausting.  It hard to watch someone you care about in an assload of pain.  It's hard on them as well knowing that it's hard on you.  Thankfully, I'm a big guy.  At least, that's what I tell my wife.

It's can be hard to explain to those who've never done it or had someone close to them who's been a caretaker.  When I first entered into this I thought it would be easy and looked at others who'd done it and didn't understand the time involved and the stress it could bring about so it's easy for me to understand the questions people may have.  Sometimes it feels like I'm busy when I'm not really busy.  Something it took awhile to understand is that it can take awhile to figure out a routine.  I don't mean a day to day routine because that can change at a moments notice.  But routines for getting things done.  We're still playing with some things to find what works and doesn't but it's coming together slowly and as it does things become much easier.

So that's a very basic breakdown.  To get into anything and everything that could happen in a day or week would require be to basically write a book and if you're anything like me, you'd lose interest pretty quickly reading about the duldrums that come with every day life.  In many ways our life isn't all the much different than many other's I suspect and certainly much better than other families with a disability in the home.  We try not to focus on the negative and are constantly challenging ourselves to be better.    It's not always sunny, but we have lights that enable us to see the good things every day in life.





Monday, January 6, 2014

Crazy Winter Beginning

Winter for us is a rather strange time of year.  Like everyone else we've been blasted by the crazy weather we've had this year.  It turned our normal 3 and a half hour trip home to an 8 hour ordeal due to an ice storm that hammered the southern part of Maine a couple days before Christmas.  To top it off, my family was among the thousands who didn't have power for days (5 in our case).  Because we're a hardy bunch we still had a wonderful Christmas with meals cooked on and in my grandparents cook stove and spent a lot of time talking with no tv in the background with I can't complain about.  It was an old fashion Christmas and it was pretty awesome in a lot of ways.

Both before and after the trip home for the holidays we've been dealing with some serious cold temperatures.  From what I've read it was the coldest and snowiest December in 5 years where we are and has been described to me by locals as the definition of an "Old Fashion" winter.  I wouldn't mind it so much but it certainly alters our particular lifestyle.  Because of the way this house is set up, it's an extreme pain in the ass to keep warm during those cold spells.  There is a soap stone wood stove in the living room which does a great job keeping that end of the house warm.  However, because of it's location almost none of the heat makes it's way to the other end of the house.  Another issue with it is that the living room was an add on by the previous owner and was stick built and insulated properly while the other end of the house was a very roughly built log home.  I spent a good deal of time this summer re-chinking it (what the sealant in a log home is called) but didn't get it completely finished. (We didn't have the funds to rent a lift this year and working at the top of a 25 ft ladder was a no go).  It's mostly done and has made a huge difference but there's obviously some heat loss.  At the log end of the home there was also a porch that was added on but the geniuses who built it negated to insulate the damn thing.  The porch is also open to the who house so it's not possible to simply close it down for the winter months.  Intelligent move in this climate.

So we have the wood stove in the well insulated end of the home and at the other end a propane fireplace/stove thing that may work in a small room but not in such a large area.  In the addition (which is now the wife's pottery studio) there's a pellet stove as well.  On the really cold nights we also need to run an electric heater in the basement to insure the pipes don't freeze.  So what does it mean for us?  It means we run the house in shifts.  One of us is up during the day and the other stays up all night to tend the stove and make sure all is well with the electric heater.  This is obviously hell on all of us.  Since I take Jimmy to hockey games and such Marilyn has been doing the majority of the night shifts though I've done a few here and there when she's had a rough day (or night for that matter).  It's a very interesting way to live to say the least.

Though it's a pain in the ass to live this way, I have certainly had the opportunity to educate myself on different things home heating related!  I done a lot of things I'd never done much of; insulating a floor, hanging plastic over exterior windows, banking the house with snow, chinking (which by the way I don't ever want to F***king do again!), cleaning chimneys and fixing and cleaning pellet stove.  Yes, it's been a couple years of education regarding homes and extreme weather.  Lesson's I'm going to be very happy to apply to my own home further south as soon as possible!.  :)