Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Cross Is Heavy Enough... ...

... why do people so enjoy hanging off other people's crosses. One of the things that most Christians wonder about, at some point, is why was Christ followed and taunted by the populace. After all, he was not going on vacation, so why add to his torment? Many people think it was devilish inspiration, and I'm not saying it wasn't, however a recent case study shows that our brains can receive pleasure from watching an "enemy" in pain. So, just make the target of your bile everyone else's enemy (at least in their minds) and when you disrupt, or destroy, their lives people around the target (victim) will applaud.

That is the dissonant part of this equation: A victim of crime or tragedy can be the victimizer of other victims. All in the name of good efforts, yes, but it does not change the outcome. Yet another victim of tragedy is born... at the hands of a tragedy victim.

Personal context: This is where this thought, and thinking, came from. It has now been 1 yr, 1 month, and 1 day since my traumatic brain injury. Add to which it is now 2 weeks short of 1 year since I was released from the hospital. In a very necessary wheelchair, I might add. In the past year I have walk two 5k fundraising events. One for the CropWalk, which I needed to do to catch up with my promise in 2012, and one for the Krempels Center. That is where my current major issue lies, the Krempels Center.

As I was working up to being released by the Northeast Rehab Hospital, Krempels was pointed out as being a good place for me to go. Possibly for the support and guidance in recovering from brain injury. David Krempels, a wonderful man, is the basis of the Center forming. The mission and purpose is transcendent especially given how many people there are suffering from this Invisible Illness. However if not careful a wonderful mission, transcendent purpose, can be twisted by not-so-well meaning individuals.

What Disciple started, and fought, in the Crusades? Using the Crusades as an example, and there are many more that can be used, a good wonderful mission; a transcendent idea; was used as an excuse to inflict pain on others. What qualified them as other does not matter, just that they were painted with the "other" brush and, in most cases, were killed.

When I awoke from coma I had been reduced to sheer infancy. As the months go by, my psychology (my cognition) grows up. I was essentially a pre-teen when I drove myself to the Krempels Center. My wife had been doing dances on the phone trying to arrange for transportation for me, to the Krempels Center, when I had had enough. I hit Google Maps, researched the route I had to take, and drove myself to the Krempels Center.

The staff was overjoyed to see me. Here was a brain injured person who could figure out the circuitous route to the Community First Center in Portsmouth. A brain injured person who could, quite possibly, fund his own support group knocking on their door. And, as an added bonus, I was alone without a chaperone (this part becomes dreadfully important!). I was happy to sign up, in fact I wanted to be on the next "orientation" class as soon as possible.

No, no, no! Orientation is not needed. The boundaries (rules) are simple. So simple that they are not written ANYWHERE. So hard to find staff with available time to learn what the "boundaries" are. Just be yourself and the Krempels Center will adjust (not) in support of you. So here is a 45 yr old pre-teen, one that has served in the 101st Airborne, served in Desert Storm, grew up in the ghettos of North Philadelphia, a Mensan and a Mason, being told "be yourself". So I did, who I am is a person who wants to know to things: What is our goal? How are we getting there?

So, obviously, I got fired from the Krempels Center community. Why? Because in the opinion of the staff supporting me took to much of their time at the expense of other brain injury sufferers. Not to mention I am not brain injury media image friendly for fund raising events. I don't have any really visible scars. I stand 6 feet and 3 inches tall. My arm length is 37 inches, my chest measurement is 54 inches, and I weigh a nice healthy 300 lbs. I am Caucasian, sandy blonde with green eyes, and I am not afraid to ask, or answer, questions. On the fundraising marketing front, I am a walking disaster if you don't like answering "What" and "How".

Given the Krempels Center, just last weekend, successfully raised $100k, some of which goes into the paychecks of the staff (hush-hush!), I would say firing me and having me be ostracized was monetarily good sense. But that's not what is bothering me, specifically. What the Krempels Staff did to me, how they interacted with me (Minus a chaperone) was extremely insulting and denigrating to an old war soldier. However, that can be, and was, endured.

The problem is the "stalking" that one of the Krempels members has done to my life. At one point I thought she might turn into a worthwhile friend. She disabused me of that notion. She thought that I might become one of her many lovers, I firmly disabused that notions. The only woman I can ever feel lust for is the only woman who I can equally respect and love; My Wife. It is just the way I am made and I have see no reason or rationale to be other that I am at my heart. I am not disharmonious and I dread disharmony & conflict.

Now, stalking is usually easy to cure: Just don't associate with them anymore and their obsessions latch on somewhere else after a time. However, my stalker gains pleasure from watching "others" squirm in discomfort or pain. So harassing me more and more only gives her pleasure as she watches me try to squirm out from under any influence she might have. I have been diligent about this as well even to the point of going to the police. The police can't do nothing about it though as we were not sexually or emotionally involved and no physical threats or actions were made. Essentially, she can freely and legally harass me to death. It is her 1st Amendment right, and we want to protect her rights, yes?

So this morning the full weight of my situation came down upon my shoulders. I was at Starbucks (I drop in regularly) and one of my old Baristas came in as a customer. He has not been working at that Starbucks for a while so I was curious as to how he has been doing. I have a slight personal relationship with him as I knew as now deceased Sister. She was an integral church member at my Church. So motivated and inspired that she helped End 68 Hours of Hunger in a significant manner. So much so that when our Church donated land, and built a building, for End 68 Hours of Hunger the building was named after this woman. (Irony being irony, she suffered brain injury from tumor growth and succumbed to more tumor growths)

This gentleman, younger than me, is a fine person to know. He is not just a barista, he is also a teacher. Starbucks was just a side job for side job reasons. However as I got to know him I did not know that I went to church with his sister. Did not know until I attend Christina's living wake that she planned, and held while she still had the wherewith all to do so. I then met him at the wake and found out the there were siblings. She left such an impact on my life that 4 - 5 months after my accident I was up a scaffold helping to line up roof timbers for the building with her name. In fact, on the day the building was blessed and opened for business I purchased something during a fundraising (me and fundraiser's!) Silent Auction. What I purchased I won't discuss however I value it at half a million, easy. Yes, I said half a million DOLLARS. Not pennies, dollars.

So this morning I got a slight cold shoulder from this gentleman and I realized what could, most likely, be the problem. His wife is a hired care giver for brain injured people. I would see her regularly at the Krempels Center. So me being fired as a member is bad, my stalker speaking unmentionables about me is horrorific. After all, my church has only known me for just a touch over 3 years. At Lee has only known me as a drive by customer who seems nice. However if what my stalker says about me is even remotely true: Lee could find his job as a teacher gone. Lee's wife could find her job as a care giver gone. Even if it isn't remotely true: If the Krempels Center purposefully takes umbrage over me Lee's wife could find her job... gone.

And the road to Golgotha is not an easy one.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Facing The Day That The Lord Has Made... ... (Volunteer Spirit Pt 2)

I mentioned earlier in this autobiography that the Volunteer Spirit Lives On. Today it got a serious workout and, as a bonus, my name did not get involved in any way. Just a chance to chip in, got a ton of thanks, but only one person actually knew my name. At all (thanks for the Hug Wendy!!!!).

So to start I woke up at 2:30 AM. Still can't sleep all the way through a night. My friend Andrea got my kind of hooked on a game (web page based) so I spent a few hours playing that. Then I got dressed and went to Church. Now this is where it gets a touch interesting for me.

I proceeded into Church with the program in my hand and sat down in my popular seat (very Sheldon of me, I know). Introduced myself to the surrounding parishioners and remembered something that I noticed in passing. The function hall ("fellowship hall") speakers were tied into the pulpit's microphone. Or so I assumed. The choir was about to engage in a specific hymn so I rushed out to listen to the speakers to make sure.

Well, yup, the speakers were tied into the pulpit's microphone. This excited me, and relieved me, as there are times when I can't help but cry... publicly... during service. No, I am not ashamed of it at all. Tears from my eyes are critically checked and if the tears are valid, out they pour. However, the awkwardness for me is the overwhelming consideration and concern my Church goes through if they see me crying.

My Church is totally aware of how close I came to dying. Much more so than I am in fact. Their care and love is very comforting yet having to explain, again and again, that I am ok gets me to think about the fact that perhaps I am not okay. That form of thinking leads to depression and how can I tell them that their expressions of love depresses me... some times. (What an ungrateful sod I am.)

So today I got to enjoy Church service no matter how my personal mood was. I listened, oh yeah, and I interacted as if I was right there in service. I sang with the Church, I read the Church litanies right along with them, I even said "This is my prayer", just like a good parishioner at a pulpit, like my brothers and sisters did when it was that time to say that.

As a classy bonus, I used my cell phone to video tape the empty function hall however the audio caught the whole church service upon it. I used the video taking feature to capture the entire hall, the bulletin boards (designed and populated) by fellow parishioners. After I am done this chapter I will then proceed to process the cell phone video and make a DVD out of it for my minister to enjoy (and do whatever he decides with it!).

So that was my morning Church service. Simple enough yet I wound up interacting with a veteran Sailor and sharing stories. Her service was not as satisfying as mine was however, fortunately for her, much much shorter. So I was leaving the Church at 11AM when I decided to make a short detour/side trip. A friend of mine, Brandon, is doing volunteer help at the Dover Children's Museum. He thinks so highly of the experience he has recommended it to me as a means of satisfying my volunteer spirit.

Ran into two.. I'll say problems... problems. The Museum does not open till Noon and parking was tight at Henry Law Park. Today was the American Cancer Society's "Breast Cancer Walk". So here I am trying to get parking when suddenly I am surrounded by walkers being proactive. So I parked and I noticed a place I could help out. One of the traffic lanes, that pedestrians was using, was not being blocked. Traffic was heading, almost gleefully, toward walkers when I just stood in the way and motioned traffic in a safer direction.

Now this impromptu action of mine I kept up for the first leg of the journey. I though the need for me was over and I went to Henry Law Park to find out what was going on. (I know it was worthwhile but I did not know WHAT was actually going on). When I got to the park and snagged a boy scout who brought me up to date when I noticed that the first leg of the journey was almost done. Almost done means the walkers were approaching Foster's Democrat offices and were beginning to cross Washington and Central Streets. Not good peaceful streets, so I leapt into action.

Placing myself in the block the traffic position I gesture the walkers to move forward. When I could I got the approaching walkers to hesitate and stop while traffic went about it's way. I would then hit the "crosswalk" signal, when that activated, I moved the walkers on. This went on for a while.

However at some point a nice young lady, who looked like she knew things, approached and I asked if there was any way I could help. She took me up on that offer. She asked me to be a traffic guard (Imagine that!) for the returnees on the last leg of the journey. So I took control of the intersection (again) and encouraged walkers to safely cross the intersection when the "pedestrian signal" was activated. Therein the walkers wound up being introduced to my "bullhorn". The Army taught me how to sound off - and sound off I did whenever necessary.

After that last leg, I then got in queue ("Q" haha.) and grabbed a slice of pizza. While I chewed the slice I got to go into the Museum and found out that the Volunteer Coordinator does not work Sundays. I then went back outside ran into the tired Staffer. Checked in, like a good soldier will do, and found out that the "officer" no longer needed me for any purpose. I then got back into my car, 3 hours later, and drove home; having never given anyone my name.

At one point I did notice a Foster's photographer grabbing snapshots of me. I wonder how generic my description will be. Especially given the fact that I only accidentally found the event. I spent last Saturday walking 5k for the CropWalk (which I still have to complete paperwork on!!!) and had made no plans for this level of activity. Yet I found myself sufficient to the task(s).

"HELP" was the prayer on my lips the entire time. Every time I thought I was done, here is another task. This day was definitely made by the Lord. Maybe not for me, perhaps, however I kept him in my heart and faced what weather came my way. Ironically, it was a hugely enjoyable experience.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Really Big Day But ...

I see more challenges in front of me.

Today's CorpWalk was educational for me, in a very enlightening way. I did the walk, yes, but not vigorously. An elderly gentlemen from my church did the walk as well and provided me with in depth tour of Dover as we walked. He is 83 yrs old and his family used to own large portions of the now much more urban Dover. Walking with him, I did it just in case he needed a young man's assistance, he showed me where such & such building used to be or, what that building there used to be or, what that parking lot was before the building that was there caught fire. Learning so much, SO MUCH, about this wonderful little town (I'm from Philadelphia after all.) was enlightening and entertaining. Turns out while my mission changed on me, from doing a 5k walk to keeping an eye on a worthwhile elder, his mission changed on him as well. He started with doing a 5k walk but ended up taking my not quite middle age behind and taught me the value of what was around me. Interesting how the Lord blesses you, unexpectedly, while you are going about what you thought was important.

The other part of my day was; being a FNG. And not so much just a f- new guy but fresh blood with a fresh mind, perspective, and inspirational feelings. How many people know where there local VFW is. I mean if the Post is still standing. How many people understand that there is so much more to a VFW than just a place were old guys get together to have drink or four. Most VFW's are inside beautiful old buildings, usually a building that had some historical significance to the local community it is inside. Most VFW members don't ask for anything, they don't NEED you to give them anything. However, considering the level of sacrifice that they have provided how many of you would say "Thank you for your service"?

A lot of you, I know, but do you realize how offensive most thanks sound? For 5 seconds out of a random moment in time you are grateful. Yet any other time you can't be bothered. Oh I know, you truly appreciate my sacrifice to you. Oh yeah you do, however any other time you are in a car behind me annoyed that I am keeping to the speed limit. That is generally why I, and many other veterans, value your gratitude with as highly as you really value our sacrifices upon your behalf.

That is the challenge in front of me. Getting Veterans to want to be more involved with the community they bled for, the community they were willing to die for, the community around them that doesn't always act with much gratitude for their service. However the truth is, no matter how bitter the relationship is between Veterans & Civilians it is being involved in your local community that is important. Dysfunction will fester and grow without worthwhile social interaction.

But I can type and type and I'm just wasting your, and my, time unless I shoulder the burden. Unbeknownst to me, my occupation has changed from being a Motor pool Sarge ant to a Pathfinder. Knowing where this path leads, knowing the empty cu-de-sac it is, and struggling to change our course to one that is more rewarding. For those that walk the Path and the people we meet along the way.

After all, is not the point of life? Enjoy it while you have it and, while you have it, share the goodness of it with as many spectators you can.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Really Challenging Day... ...

Here I am up at 2AM this Sunday morning. Unlike many other Sundays I am not going to be heading in to Church this morning. My VFW Post (4485) is holding it's monthly "business" meeting at 10AM. This conflicts with Church service however no veteran arbitrates his sworn duty when issues arise. So I will be heading, like every morning, to the VFW. Then after the meeting I will be gathering my CropWalk materials, those that I can remember where they are, and then heading into Dover, N.H. and parking near St. Thomas Episcopal's Church.

While down there I will visit the local Cigar Shoppe and switching from Smoking to Vaping. Nicotine is important for the effect it has on my brain, giving me greater control over my cognition, however the normal delivery system is far to smelly (for my wife) and not really good in the area of taste. That I hope will be changed for the better.

Then I will register myself for the CropWalk and take a 5k walk honoring the walk of many women who support their family and households by walking for water that they, and their families, need to make it through a day. While I walk I will carry with me the flag of the U.S. Army (with pride) and the U.S. American flag (with not as much pride). I will do this with three (3) people in mind:

1 - My Father.
A Vietnam veteran who married my mother when I was only 4 years old. He raised me with the greatest levels on integrity, honor, and character any man needs to be sufficiently worthwhile in this life.

2 - My Wife.

Her involvement in Veteran affairs is a hat trick. One that she did not fully appreciate until recently. By the design on three (3) important men in her life. Her father (a WWII Veteran), her older brother (a Vietnam Veteran), and her husband (a Desert Storm Veteran) all of whom she deeply loves and respects. I am the only one who has shared deep war stories with her but only because I could not keep my mouth shut during my recovery period. And there are still some aspects of war experience that just can never be properly conveyed. Experience is ... ... just that; Experience.

3 - My Daughter.

When I die, it does not matter what is said about me after I am gone. In the Lord's hands I will be and that is where I will rest (as much as I ever can). However, my daughter will be able to look at my life and realize that I did not just exist, I LIVED!! The example that I must always maintain is not to show her how to simply exist; I will so her how to LIVE! That is all a parent can do, and that is my duty as her father. Love her, and by example, love her.

Now, that is the "what" of my motivation. I could swamp this entry with many more "whys" surrounding my thinking but that just opens the door to debate (which there is none), discussion (to busy walking), and argument. Discord is to be avoided where ever and whenever possible. The loudest shouter of "No" rarely gets heard and what respect s/he gets is not worth while. Yet the silent stater of what is right gets heard by those who are interested and willing to listen.

How this day is going to turn out? Heck, even Congress does not know how this day is going to turn out for them (no matter what anyone them say). All I can promise, and swear to, is that this not-so old Veteran is facing the day's challenges with an open face; ready for the efforts needed; and by doing so I will have succeeded before I take the first step on that 5k march.

Anything else matter?

PS: It is now 3AM and I am heading to bed. Good night and may the Lord bless you.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Is My Life, My Very Existence, Against The Law?!?

What happened to me is easy, yet hard, to explain. I was coming downhill at about 30 mph or so when something happened. My bike, from what eyewitness reports we have, came to a sudden stop.

I then went flying over the handlebars, tearing up my right hand which I keep under the handlebar to avoid pressing it (and having a front brake lock up), and then landed on my face.

The asphalt did not appreciate my method of flirtation. Her rejection of me was not exactly gentle. If not for a simple bike helmet, and good stretching prior to riding, I would not be here - at all. I would not wish this experience on anyone, ever, yet people readily do this to themselves all day long. No bike needed, just a lighter and a pipe.

Now, let's be clear: I am not against what silliness people will inflict upon themselves. Yet how many weed smokers know what they are really doing to themselves. I should be honored by the imitation of myself by their (stupidity) actions. They are willingly injure their brains for fun(???) for some reason I can not fathom. And you wonder why our society is lacking?

Not just mine, mind you, the internal lack of ambition and spirit is in many lands. Watch the news, read the paper, people go on and on about trouble but no one really talks about the real problem. The media makes billions on it, encourages it, but won't address it. Politicians live thier lives like lampreys, feasting on your shallow minded tendancies. They grow fat while you waste away... till you really don't matter - to anyone.

My case worker has been struggling as I fall through the medical establishment's crack. I don't have enough money, or media fame, to warrant any real attention. For example, in June my case worker set up my first (ever since leaving the hospital) nueroligist appointment. It was scheduled for August 30th. After two months waiting to pay my co-pay, I met a very engaging mind for the morning. She decided to refer me to a Nuerologist Psychiatrist as I have some growning PTSD issues that need to be addressed.

My case worker waited two weeks then called her office to find out what is going on. Ooops, the N-psychiatrist got the referral but forgot to call to set up an appointment. Now it has been a couple of weeks more, no phone calls, no appointments; from either doctor. It is like I don't, or should not, exist.

Now things are looking up, after a fashion, as the VA is getting involved. As a veteran, of a foriegn war, it seems someone does care about me. Not Congress though, the current claimers of the Republican agenda seem to think it better I die. Perhaps that will make me happy. Sadly suicide, which I did think about, is against God's law. Think I can get a Tea Party member to schedule my execution? I won't struggle or resist, I'll just lay what is left of this poor Veteran's brain on the desk. Then they can stamp NO on it continuing to live.

Consider this: Marijuana is illegal to use in most of this country (and rightly so). The reason is the debilitating effect it has on the human brain. It can ruin memory, short term and long. It ruins balance making you unstable in ways you can't predict, at times you never know when. Dealing in it, dealing in human weakness, is wrong. It leads to death and ruin but many people feed on it like leeches on the skin. (I've had to dealt with such things as a Soldier, it is not nice - For the leech.)

With such physical and mental condition being illegal is my life illegal?

PS: Here is my case worker's website. He is not taking anymore clients as my case consumes his limited time and capabilities. (link)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What Does Aphasia Mean & Do... ...

What does it mean? Well do any of you know? Doing research on Aphasia via Google or Wikipedia brings you to one simple conclusion among hundreds of links: There is no simple definition of what Aphasia is.

Aphasia is a communication disorder. Something goes wrong from thought to expression. What goes wrong? No one really knows but there are allot of guesses. There are many studies, many MRI's, and many speech tests. Heck there are many YouTube's demonstrating aphasia but usually in the extremes. (Like most YouTube's do, unfortunately.)

So what does it do to me?

Well to understand that context must be provided, for your understanding of why it sucks so much. I used to be very fluent and dynamic in speaking. At one point of my life I was a lay minister. I could absorb the worries and concerns of a Fellow Christian and provide support via language. Support and peace, that is what most of us need at various times while on our walk through life. Heck, not just Christian's either. The value of a soul is not just determined solely by the religion that soul practices. It is determined by the ethos that soul creates and supports around itself. There in is the value.

I used to be able to talk for hours, dynamically without the need of per pared materials or diving into any book for back up. I could type about 150 words per minute. 120 or so without looking at the keyboard at all. As an interesting prank I would play on my wife was to hold a vibrant conversation with her, staring right at her, while click clacking away on the keyboard. The sight of her husband holding two trains of thoughts, at completely different mediums and venues, used to spook her as only a "Dennis the Menace" prankster husband could do.

That ability is no more.

When I talk, now, I do it slowly. Part of the slowness is the mental processing of what I want to say to confirm that these are the words I need to use to properly communicate. Now when I type I make an embarrassing amount of mistakes. (Whoever invented Backspace is one of my heroes!)

A fine example of how it effects me? When I want to make a sudden statement, not a loud exclamation but just a sudden statement within the context of my current dialogue. I have developed a consistency of habit, in essence a rut, that I run my mental wheels through again and again and again. I.E. When someone says something I strongly agree with I say "Exactly". I don't mean "exactly" however, I just mean I agree. However this small bit of aphasic communication can be misleading. Sometimes very misleading indeed.

Take tonight for example: I was in a conversation with two extremely good and gentle friends via Skype. We were just in a call chit chatting away, no video, and I would repeatedly say "exactly" to many statements. Of course I don't realize my misleading communication. So I would get asked, "What exactly?" After many times of being asked to explain my exactly's I finally let irritation show by just shutting Skype down.

The additional miscommunication of this event is, I wasn't remotely irritated at them, not at all. I was irritated with myself. I used to pride myself on never getting into personal ruts no matter the convenience of them. The number one skill I possessed, before my accident, was critical thinking. Focused primarily upon myself which is where critical thinking is most effective. That skill, or trait, is to ... gone.

Before my accident I was thinking about returning to ministry. Even considering becoming ordained however that path to self fulfillment has gotten much much longer. I used to spend my time in volunteer efforts. Not for the "favor" I was doing for others, oh no, but for the favor I was doing for my own soul. Other people were just the lucky beneficiaries of my soul searching and cleansing.

An example: during the planning of my recovery my wife purchased a year's worth of incontinence sleeping chucks. A big old box of them however I wound up only needing one. And the embarrassment of needing that one drove my mind to not needing another one, at all. However a big box was sitting in my house taking up space and we did not want to just waste them. Not by just throwing them away. So I took my inquiries to my local VFW, who in turn directed me to a nearby American Legion. Who in turn suggested a nursing home which made me remember an assisted living facility nearby that I saw regularly but have never visited. Sadly too as many of my Masonic brethren live there and could just use my visiting presence and not just some supplies. (Mind you supplies are good too!)

So for the very first time, today, I entered the Wentworth Home. Made the director's day with my donation but really made staff smile at my cheery perspective. Especially when they learned of why I had the need of such equipment. But this is getting away from the point. (My saliency was destroyed as well.)

The point is I do not, can not, properly control my communication. Not horribly so, no, just enough that some times I can be misleading on intent or purpose. I dread the looks on some kind people faces when I enter their sight. The kind forbearance I see there, the gentle spirits that find my presence something to be burdened with (even just a little)... I see it. (Don't play three hands of poker with me - I may not win much, depending on the draw, but neither will you win anything but by the draw.)

In conclusion, I am currently depressed. Depressed by the resounding fact of my inability to sometimes functionally communicate, depressed by the apologies and explanations justly owed to others, and depressed because I don't know how far or how long this condition will last. When my Aphasia was obvious life was much nicer. Now it is not so strong but that makes it a subtle crime against thought. Thought, or thinking, is my good friend or so it used to be. I am learning to sometimes hate my brain because of how sneakily it betrays me.