Sunday, December 30, 2012


Today is December 30th. To most people that means that tomorrow is a party night to usher in the New Year. To some it is the day that they will reflect upon the last 12 months and decide what they resolve to accomplish in the upcoming 12 months, however most of those goals won't make it through the first month of the new year. Many people will make amends to people in their lives who they feel they may not have made enough time for, or may have slighted in some way, or to confess their love for their significant other in order to ring in the new year with a fiancĂ© instead of just a "significant other." However, for two people who helped mold my life into what it is, it is an extremely significant day that very few others in this world get to experience. Today marks their 59th wedding anniversary.
  Carl and Joan Abrams were married 59 years ago today. They have hit a milestone that most people can't even begin to imagine, yet we all desire when we initially meet our future spouse. Many promise something similar in their wedding vows (ie. I hope to spend my next 70 years with you) and note in anniversary cards. Many marriages end many decades before reaching such a milestone, and sadly many marriages end because one of the spouses fails to survive much past their 59th birthday, let alone 59 years of marriage. I can honestly say I have never met a couple who has reached this landmark anniversary. 
  In my many years of working in paramedicine, I have seen so many people in their 80s who live in nursing facilities alone with very little ability to do anything for themselves or anyone else. Hell, when I was truly a young lad I always pictured people in their 60s and older as being so infirm that they could barely survive without constant medical assistance. Yet my grandparents have completely shattered that notion for me and made me pity many of my patients who were at least 20 years their junior who had so many medical problems that I got to see them on a constant basis when they had 911 dispatch me to take them to the ER for whatever was ailing them on that particular day. 
  My grandparents live in New Jersey, barely a block away from my mother (by choice not necessity), they ride their tandem bicycle everywhere imaginable, my grandfather cooks some of the best meals I have ever eaten, they babysit and constantly enjoy playing with my two youngest siblings who are mirror ages of my youngest children. They are more active in their 80s than I am in my 30s. 
  My grandfather has had his share of medical issues. I remember receiving a call from my mother several years ago informing me that my grandfather had some type of "cardiac emergency" and was at George Washington Hospital. I immediately got into my car and drove down to DC expecting to find my grandfather clinging to life after another heart attack. I began weeping when I went home to pick my wife up to drive to DC thinking that this will be when I lose my grandfather and I couldn't bear the thought of it. However, when we get into the ER room to see him, he is laughing at my serious concern for him and passes it off as just an "episode" and being blown out of proportion by my overbearing mother. No big deal he insists, just a little chest pain. The way he tells it, he began having a little chest discomfort whilst out on his daily bike ride around DC. The paramedics are called, and because he refuses to leave his expensive bicycle locked to a tree in some random location in the city, has them basically follow him back to his house on Capitol Hill before he will allow them to transport him to the hospital. As a medic, I could only laugh at the hilarity of an ambulance following their patient to his house to secure his bicycle during a "cardiac event" before he climbs into the medic unit and allows them to perform a 12-lead ECG, start an IV and begin following the ACS (acute coronary syndrome) protocol. My wife and I joked about him most likely banging his fist on the handlebar as he yelled "dammit Joan" all the way to the house.
  After a few hours of visiting at the hospital and relaxing with the notion that my grandfather wasn't in immediate peril, we all went to my aunt Tamar's house to have a "heart attack party" where we were all finally able to relax and laugh about the incident even though he would remain in the hospital for several days and if I remember correctly this "episode" resulted in a bypass operation. In this family, unless your medical condition results in immediate death, we tend to have a few good laughs at your expense once the immediate fears subside. 
  My grandparents taught me the finer things in life. They always listened to classical music, thus giving me an appreciation for those amazing composers. My grandfather took me to the Kennedy Center almost monthly to see some amazing operas that I still love to this very day. I remember him taking me to my all time favorite, Into The Woods with the original Broadway cast to include Bernadette Peters who I always had a crush on since watching her in the movie The Jerk with Steve Martin. I remember many bike rides with my grandfather. I remember how my grandmother used to take me for rides on the Metro train around DC with no real destination set, just a day riding the rails because I loved the train so much. I remember how I used to call my grandfather "BeeBop" and the chime when the Metro doors are closing always sounded like BeeBop to me. I remember how when things got really bad for me at home, their door was always open to me. One time I had to leave home for good and my father accompanied me on the Metro to their house in southeast DC late in the evening so that I could live with them. No matter what was going on in my life, at a moments notice they were there for me. I remember my grandmother taking me with her to the YWCA where she did water aerobics and would show me off to all the ladies in her group. I remember my grandparents being very accepting of everyone I dated regardless of race, religion, or gender. They raised me to believe that everyone was equal and should be treated with dignity and respect. 
  I have heard my grandfather tell so many stories of his life, but I can honestly say that I have never really heard the story of their courtship and marriage. What I do know is that they married and had 3 wonderfully smart children, 1 of which brought me into the world so that I could be nurtured and cultured by these two absolutely amazing people. Even though we live almost 300 miles apart and I rarely get the chance to travel to see them, they are in my thoughts everyday and I miss them terribly. I can make a promise that no matter what I am doing, I will be there to join in the celebration next year when they hit their 60th anniversary. Knowing my grandfather, no matter what happens, he will not allow anything to come between them reaching that milestone. As I learned at a very young age, you just don't argue with The Colonel. 
  So, please, if you have ever met my grandparents, wish them a very happy 59th anniversary. Carl and Joan Abrams, you are not only my grandparents, you are my inspiration both in my life and in my marriage. You are the people that I have always aspired to be like. Throughout the years that I have been privileged to know you, you continue to inspire and amaze me just by being the wonderful people that you are and I could not imagine what my life would have been like without you in it. Thank you for getting the Abrams clan started 59 years ago, you did a wonderful job and keep up the great work! Congrats on this amazing achievement!!!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Initial diagnosis

  It has been over a year and a half since I sought out a new diagnosis from my neurologist because of a new symptom that I knew was not related to the initial  diagnosis of Parkinson's disease. I had developed numbness in the left side of my back that rapidly began spreading throughout my entire left side from the shoulder blade down. I went to the ER and was told that it was most likely a back injury. However, I had not hurt my back, had absolutely no pain, and had done nothing exerting which would have resulted in any sort of muscular injury. After stating this to the ER doctor, she kind of off-the-cuff said that it could be MS. 
  Driving home from the ER that Saturday evening in July I had many things running through my mind. One of them was that she was the 2nd doctor in the same amount of days who refused to believe me that I had not injured my back or had some underlying prior back injury that I refused to disclose to them. And who had also shrugged that it could "just be MS." Another thing running through my head was my friend Cary's mother who had MS. I distinctly remember the house always smelling of fresh urine, her mangled looking shape in the reclining chair in the living room, and how everyone seemed to avoid letting people into that part of the house for fear that they would see her. I looked over at my wife who was driving us from the ER to pick up a bag of dog food on our way home and telling her that if this was indeed MS, then I wanted her to allow me to kill myself. 
  I had never really allowed myself to consider ending my life as a solution to any problem. I have PTSD from what I witnessed on 9/11 along with flashbacks and other sensory delusions that remained whilst my brain came to terms with what I had witnessed first hand. I had several close friends take their lives after 9/11 because they were unable to deal with the lasting effects that the PTSD made them experience. I have lost a number of close friends on the job due to some terrible fires where nothing really could have been done to save them and had to listen to their final words over the radio as they asked us to save them or to deliver a final message to their loved ones because they knew their death was imminent. Yet through all of that, I never once considered taking my own life. However, this one possible diagnosis made me very strongly consider it. I even began ironing out some plans in my head as to how I was going to accomplish it.
  I initially thought that I would just put my Glock in my mouth and pull the trigger. I have a .40 caliber with hollow point bullets, that would be sure to accomplish the task. But, 2 things bothered me with this plan. 1: This method is way too overdone. I mean really, what am I some kind of rock star who just gets high one night and BOOM...ends it? Besides, any Joe can blow their head off and  if I am going to die, especially at my own hand, I can't go out in such a traditional and stereotypical fashion. I mean, I have never in my life been a conventional person, so I can't simply go out in a contemporary way. 2: MS eats away myelin in the "white parts" of the brain leaving lesions that I refer to as holes. Since the disease is already putting holes in my brain, thus leaving me contemplating such a drastic decision in the first place, it would be pretty stupid to add another hole to the already affected area. I mean really, I wanna die because of the "holes" the disease causes by adding another hole to my brain. In that case I should just save the bullet and wait a little while for the disease to do it for me, right? So firearm assisted suicide was pretty quickly ruled out.
  Hanging. My next thought was hanging. Pretty simple in my mind. I live in the country with easy access to many trees and rope is very easy to come across.  Yet again though, a few problems came to mind with this method as well. 1: I have no ladder. I would have to borrow a ladder from someone so that I could hang the rope over a tree branch and would have to fall off the ladder at the right height to hang myself. I hate it when neighbors borrow things from me and fail to return them, so I was pretty sure that my neighbor would be even more upset to learn that I borrowed their ladder to off myself. I know it would upset me if the roles were reversed, and frankly I like to be a good neighbor and hate upsetting others when I can help it. 2: Even after 17 years as a fireman, I am not good at knots. It is a secret I have kept hidden for my entire career. We mostly only use a few different knots on the fire ground, and those I could always do after such a long time without any thought at all. I thankfully didn't work with any high angle or repelling type rescues, so intricate knots I could get away with not knowing. So, with my luck I would go through all the work of trying to hang myself and get the damn knot wrong leading to a lot of embarrassment which defeats the purpose of killing yourself. 3: When you are hanged, you tend to void your bowels. I have several problems with this. I don't like to poop in public places to begin with, and let's face it, a crime scene tends to become a rather public place rather quickly. Also, as anyone with MS already knows, incontinence is very common amongst those with MS. If I am going to urinate and deficate myself so close to my death, I may as well just wait a little while and the disease will make me do it anyway. At least if I let the disease do it, I have an excuse, and frankly, that's what my children are for as I get older. I changed a number of their dirty diapers, it is simply payback that they get to change mine. I am a huge fan of revenge, and I honestly can't deny myself revenge defication! 
  Massive car accident! Yes! I could go on a high speed road excursion and perhaps after seeing how fast I can get my car up to I either drive off a cliff since I live at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, or drive into a big solid wall. Several problems with this scenario too. 1: At the time, I drove a Hyundai Elantra. Family compact sedan, not exactly known for speed, unless you are going down a steep hill with a major tail wind. For this endeavor I would need a much faster and flashier car. Also, my car had 6 airbags designed with life saving prevention in mind. So, I would need a fast and flashy car, preferably made before 1991. 2: I am not the luckiest of people. I know, you are thinking "why would you need luck when you are killing yourself?" Here's why: With today's modern safety standard features on vehicles, certain conditions have to be right in the event in order for all of the designed safety features to fail, allowing the impact of the accident to kill you. If I am such an unlucky person, what are the chances that those conditions would occur allowing my attempt to be successful? Thus, I would probably just end up severely injured in the accident resulting in my being severely brain damaged, unable to speak, confined to a wheel chair, drooling on myself, and most likely wearing a diaper since I would lack the mental facilities to verbalize when I needed to use the restroom. To top it all off, some people would probably nickname me something absolutely and absurdly stupid like "Lucky" and that would just piss me off and trivialize what I had initially set out to accomplish. Now, yet again, if you know anything about MS,  at some point during your MS you will become wheel chair bound, lose the ability to speak or verbalize exactly what you wish to say, lose the coordination to swallow properly thus leading to drooling, and as discussed before, will be incontinent. So rather than cause myself a great deal of unnecessary pain in a possibly bad attempt at killing myself and the great possibility of earning a really stupid nickname, auto accident suicide had to be ruled out as well.
  Drowning? Terribly afraid of water. Not even a slim to remote option in my mind of taking me out of the gene pool by this method. Don't even like the term "gene pool" because pool reminds me of water, and as mentioned, I am not a big fan of water. Ironic since I was in the Navy and a fire fighter, both careers which really heavily upon water. Go figure.
  Death by fire. Ok, who the hell am I, Ghandi? If fire had failed to kill me in the 17 years I had been fighting it, I would look pretty stupid dying intentionally by a fire after being forced to end my career because of this disease. That option didn't even come across my mind because truthfully, I would end up as a joke told in every fire house around the country and although there are several comedians that I truly admire, I do not wish to become part of their act.
  Since this left me with no other viable options in regards to snuffing out my own existence, I chose to remain living. Believe me, living is a choice. There are thousands of ways to die in this world, trust me I have watched the TV show 1,000 Ways to Die and most of them amaze even me who has seen a lot of death in many different forms. So, I chose to live every day. I chose to examine my daily life often and most of the times I am quite content with it. However, now that it has been over a year since the official diagnosis that I had initially feared, and many different symptoms have some and gone, I am glad with the choice that I have made. For anyone out there who is dreading receiving news about contracting a terminal illness that you have no real control or certainty about, look at my story. You may not be able to control much, like your memory, limbs, motor function, or energy level at any given time, you are able to control the most important aspect of your life. Your outlook upon it. Take it all with a good dose of humor and I promise you it won't seem so bad and hopeless. Remember, it may not exactly resemble what you imagined your life would be, but it will resemble something like it.


17 1/2 years ago I became a fireman. I can't say that it was initially a "calling" because in the area I lived in, volunteer firefighters were the only type of firefights we had and to be one just seemed like the coolest thing that a person could do. I wanted to be cool, and thus my initial interest into the fire service. However, what I soon learned after becoming a fireman was that the fire service was not just a cool thing to be a part of, but was now my new family with over 100,000 "brothers and sisters" nationwide who would always be there for me and my real family at a moments notice. These people would not only have my back covered in the heat of a fire, but in every other aspect of life when asked to lend a hand. The friendships made in the fire service transcend all other friendships that one can make in life. Unfortunately, it also comes with its share of heartbreak and loss.
  I lost my health to the fire service. Though not able to be 100% proven, my illness most likely arose or from my work in fire/rescue, and although I can say it with a fairly good degree of certainty, I have absolutely no bitterness and would not change a thing. The fire department gave me a home when I needed one, a family when I  could not call upon my own, and gave my wife and I another thing to have in common when she joined the fire service 7 years ago. I had numerous ears to listen anytime I needed to talk, and had a great crew that could always make you laugh no matter what was happening around you. 
  Unfortunately, because of my MS diagnosis and the symptoms that affect me currently, I had to retire from the service after almost 17 years of service. I always thought that I would fight fire and be a paramedic until I died in a fire, but apparently life had different plans for me. These plans would make the road ahead of me a difficult one, but also just as rewarding. Of course, it does allow me to spend more time with my real family, but it does kill me every time I hear a siren or see an engine going to a fire and my entire being wishes that I could be on that truck with them going to it. 
  Now in retirement I have learned a few things relating to my fire career. I learned that no matter how long you have done a job, once you retire you forget some of the basic things from that job. For instance, I have a burn barrel at my house. In this barrel I usually burn tree branches and random brush from around my property. Usually I add a small amount of gasoline as the accelerant to get the fire going and then let the brush keep it going until it all ends up as ashes. 
   Well, one day a month or so ago, I decide that I should light the barrel since it was filled to capacity and needed to be burned so that I could add more debris to it. On this day however, it had been sprinkling so everything in the barrel was a little bit damp. Figuring that the accelerant that I would be using (89 octane) would still ignite no matter how damp everything inside the barrel was, I began pouring a little bit onto the debris in the barrel. At is point I notice that I have no more matches. Perhaps I could use my cigarette to hit the flash point and reach ignition. So I take a few drags from my Marlboro making sure that the "cherry" is nice and hot and toss it into the barrel. Absolutely nothing happens. I wait a few moments seeing if the vapors will ignite, but nothing. Since I have no matches, I find a piece of paper and ignite a corner of it. Once I get a small flame I throw it into the barrel. Immediately the flame dies down and a smoldering little piece of paper is all that I see. Again giving the smoldering paper a little time to hit the ignition point, nothing happens and the paper goes out completely. Getting a little frustrated, I decide that I shall just use my lighter. It makes fire, fire ignites gasoline, gasoline soaks debris, and debris burns to ashes which is my ultimate goal here. So I flick my Bic a couple of times before getting flame. With that achieved, I bring my lighter closer to the barrel and the debris that I wish to render ashen. 
   At this point a normal fireman would remember that the vapors of gasoline have a very low flash point and usually the combustion is rather large and powerful when in such close proximity. My retirement brain seems to have filed this under "no longer pertinent information" as I move closer to the barrel. Within a second of my hand touching the barrel, the gasoline vapors ignite and a rather large fireball shoot out of the barrel. The force of this fireball blows me back about 4 feet from where I was initially standing and at the same time I begin to hear the sound of hair popping and smell it burning. As I lay on the cold ground, I start patting the left side of my face trying to extinguish any remaining flames that seemed to have attached themselves to my beard and head. It now feels as though I no longer have my beard, eyebrows, eyelashes, nose hairs, mustache, goatee, or the long grey hairs that were attached to the side of my head. At this point I also noticed the look of absolute horror on my wife's face from where she was watching on the front porch turn into absolute hysterical laughter. I on the other hand feel like Michael Jackson filming a Pepsi commercial. 
  Once I pick myself up off of the ground, and take a look at the roaring fire in my burn barrel, I walk myself over to the porch and ask my wife to assess the damage. At this time I am still unable to understand what she is saying because she is unable to catch her breath and remain standing with how hard she is laughing at me. On the good side I am now able to see her laughing with both eyes since the flashpoint that blinded my left eye initially has subsided. Unfortunately, the smell of burning hair and partially singed flesh is still rather over powering. As is the laughter coming from the mouth of my loving wife. The burning in my left hand, arm and left side of my face is also becoming more noticeable by me as well now. At this point I too begin laughing realizing the stupidity of what I just did and that fact that 2 years ago when I was still a fireman I never would have done something do stupid. Most importantly though, I seek out a mirror to see how funny I look now.
  No left eyelash. Half a left eyebrow. No more grey hairs on the left side of my head, and shortened hair everywhere else on the left side of my head which is good since I was long overdue for a hair cut anyway, and this was much cheaper than Hair Cuttery. Left side of my mustache is noticeably shorter as is my goatee. Beard on the left side is pretty much gone, which is good since the wife has been hounding me to shave it off anyway. I have a "sunburn" pretty much across the left side of my face resembling Two Face from the Batman comics. Overall though, a pretty humorous experience.
   So, in short, when you retire from your given profession, plan on losing all knowledge that you gained in your career and doing stupid things that you normally would know not to do. But, when you do something stupid, make sure that you have someone around to watch because apparently it will be the funniest thing they will have ever seen in their life and they promise to never let you live it down. Personally, I think I will have to do it again soon as the right side is now in need of some attention. Yet again, this is just life....or something like it.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

All I want for Christmas is...

 It is 3 days until Christmas, and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, except for the mouse that is in the wall somewhere and driving me insane. That is one downside to being an insomniac is that you are awake when everyone else is asleep with the exception of the nocturnal beings that farm living comes with, such as mice.
  I am eagerly awaiting the arrival of Christmas because my children are eagerly awaiting it's arrival, and to see their excitement and wishes reminds me of what it was like when I was their age and it fills me with happiness. There are many things that I am unable to share with my little ones, such as riding their bikes, or running around the yard playing tag, or crawling around on the floor, but the excitement of Christmas is something I can share with them no matter what else is going on in life. 
  Unfortunately, trying to get them to understand that spending money on gifts is not exactly what the Christmas spirit is all about, and rather spending time with the ones you love and enjoying the life that you have been given are part of the spirit is a impossible concept to get across to them. Regrettably I don't have money to spend on them for Christmas and the few gifts that we were able to get them will make this the leanest Christmas they have had up to now. The problem is me.
  Since I was terminated from my management job in August, steady income is hard to find. I am awaiting my determination from the Social Security Administration as to whether or not I am disabled enough to qualify for total disability. It is quite funny all of the questions that they ask you in order to see if you are eligible, and then they make sure that you know that you can't work during the process of figuring out if you are too disabled to work. What they fail to mention is that it usually takes 6-9 months for them to make this determination, and 90% of people are denied the first time around. Awesome! So I am too disabled to work, but for at least 6 months whilst awaiting their decision, I can't even attempt to work to keep my household above water because if I do, I will immediately be denied disability even though I most likely will be denied my disability the first go round anyway. On the good side, I can then request a second hearing which can take another 6-9 months for them to decide again if I am actually disabled, thus leaving 12-18 that I am unable to work as they make their decision. What fun!!!
  Thankfully, my lovely wife has been able to keep her job with the same company that fired me, but it is a sales job, and we all know how that can go. Sometimes she makes good money, and then sometimes the sales just aren't there and we are left with meager paychecks that can barely pay the electric bill. Thankfully, I always wondered what it would be like to be Amish, and when the money just isn't there, we get to experience the Amish lifestyle. I can say now, for the most part it isn't too bad since we don't really watch TV to begin with and keep most of the lights off around the house, but we are completely lost without our phones and iPad. 
  This Christmas also signifies the end of our 12 month lease on our house on the 31st of December. Our landlord who manages this property for the actual home owner is no longer going to manage the property after the 31st, but he is closing on his new property on the 28th and has said that the new 5 bedroom house he is buying is available for us to rent since he likes having us as tenants, of course we just have to come up with the $1600 to move in and get a moving truck to move all of our stuff from this house to the new one. Sounds great, unfortunately, there is just no money there to do this. So, where does that leave us? Good question. 
  I know what you are thinking, ask your family for help. Great idea! Down side is that my father has bailed us out of drowning in our financial situation at least 3 times this year to the tune of several thousand dollars, and as big of a man as I think I am, I will freely admit that I don't have the testicular fortitude to ask him for any more help. The biggest hindrance is that I have always been a total failure in the rest of my family's eyes, and have brought my entire situation down on myself, and because of this there is absolutely no willingness on their part to help us out. In my mother's exact words when I spoke to her earlier, "good luck." I am not surprised by it at all, again I have always been a let down to them and this situation is all my fault. What can ya do, ya know. 
  So, for this Christmas I ask Santa for a home. If he could just drop a $1600 check in my otherwise empty stocking this year I would truly appreciate it. I know that the cookies we will leave him aren't the best, hey they are homemade with love, and he has many other children in the world more deserving than us, but just this one little gift is all that my family will ask of him this year. No request for puppies, or skateboards, or Red Rider BB guns, no, just the gift of a new roof over the head of me and my family. If anything, I will gladly accept further disability symptoms if it meant that we could afford to sign the lease on the new house, who knows, maybe if I traded that for some new symptoms I would have some new fodder for my blog so that I can give everyone more reading material to laugh about. 
  Well, hopefully my next blog entry will be more entertaining then this one was. I already have a good topic picked out with tons of laughter since I have been laughing just thinking of what I will be typing for that entry. Until then, I hope that everyone has a great holiday and enjoys the time with loved ones as I will be doing. Remember, live your life, or at least something like it...

Monday, December 17, 2012

We are the problem

  Normally I would be writing something relating to my MS and trying to convey to you, my truly valued readers, the humor that this terminal illness brings into one's life if you allow yourself the positivity to see it that way. However, with the horrendous events of Friday, I must discuss something off topic.
  Gun control is not the solution nor is it the damn problem. Banning guns is not going to stop horrific events like this from happening. Taking guns out of the hands of the American people will not stop people from getting their hands on them and doing terrible things. What it will do is prevent lawful citizens who carry weapons legally and responsibly from being able to protect themselves and others when someone uses a weapon in an illegal and dangerous manner. 
  I personally have been carrying a handgun since I was 18. That is 15 years without ever once contemplating using it to rob, scare, threaten, or harm another human being. I have been in situations where I thought that I would have to use my weapon to protect another person's life and perhaps that of myself, but ended up not having to use my gun. However, knowing that I always have it on my side has brought a level of comfort to those immediately around me who know that I have it and am trained properly in how to use it. 
  Now, as a handgun owner and someone who believes that those allowed to own and carry a weapon have the right to be able to do so, I do believe that assault weapons have no place in modern society with the exception of law enforcement officers and members of the military. You do not need an AR-15 to go hunting. No one needs an Uzi to go to the shooting range. You don't need either of these weapons to protect your home unless perhaps you live in a war torn nation where constant fear of paramilitary forces entering your home and killing you and your family is a possibility, and frankly, that is no where here in the US. However, if you are a legal gun owning citizen, you should be required to do everything possible to keep your weapon out of the hands of anyone else. 
  The terrible shootings that have been plaguing the news lately were not weapons that were illegally purchased or stolen. These weapons were allowed to fall into the hands of psychopaths by people who had the legal right to own weapons and failed to protect society by properly limiting access to these weapons by others. I can honestly say that no other living person others than my wife has ever handled any of my handguns or been able to access them without me personally unsecuring them. I don't trust anyone else with my weapon, because you never know what that person might do with it. The only way to properly have a weapon and be safe with it is to limit anyone else having access to it, hence the reason they are referred to as "personal protection." 
  On this same note, weapons solely can not be blamed for the recent spats of violence. You are to blame. Everyone, myself included. The reason these people are going out and trying to kill as many as possible in such public ways is because it gives themselves a name that will live in infamy. How many people knew of the Columbine shooters before they massacred so many innocent people? I refuse to use the names of any of these recent killers because to do so only furthers their prolific hold in our society. The victims names should be the only ones to get media recognition, not the sick bastards who are carrying out these acts. We should not be talking to their friends and neighbors to get further details into their lives to try to understand why they did what they did. By doing so, you are unconsciously showing why they did it, to harm others and get as much fame as possible in doing so. These people all have one thing in common other than being deranged, they were nobody's who felt as though they didn't receive enough attention, and by carrying out such a cowardly and horrendous act, they are getting attention from every possible source. Their names are being plastered across every media outlet, being talked about around every water cooler, and being compared to every other killer known to humanity. In death they are getting the fame that they were never able to achieve in life and we are all helping them gain it. We compare their death toll to the death toll of the person(s) who did something similar before them. We compare them to serial killers with the same level of curiosity and morbid respect. I can promise you that if you asked any serial killer if they would appreciate what these horrible people have done, they would tell you how disgusted they are with them just like the rest of society is. A serial killer does not kill for fame and a place in public history, they do so for themselves and not with the consideration of others in mind. These people who are making the headlines and getting the notoriety of performing these very public and horrific killings are doing so only to get famous for what they have done, had they been caught and punished for their crimes instead of dying like cowards, they would be happy with the fame they have received, but would most likely fade into relative obscurity because the world would soon learn their motives and lose interest. The fact that no answers are able to be obtained from them due to their cowardly death leaves the world hungry for more information and makes their foothold in societal history that much more solidified. 
  Stop seeking the answers within the community and media, the answer is simple, they were nobody's and their death should remain just as unknown as their life. What we should be doing, is learning all we can about the victims, and what their lives were all about before they were so violently taken from this world. Give the fame and notoriety to them! 
  Also, stop blaming the gun manufacturers and legal gun owners. Those of us who have guns legally are the least likely to commit heinous acts against our communities, but are more likely to put our lives on the line to protect others within our community when another psycho tries to make a name for himself by trying to kill others. I promise you that I personally will draw my weapon and the fire of this person away from other innocent members of the community giving them those extra few seconds to flee and hide whilst I try to neutralize the enemy or be killed myself. Perhaps me and my handgun which is legally owned and carried about my person will give you and your loved ones those precious few seconds you need to live, and perhaps I will be able to kill your potential killer before the news media makes them out to be some sort of "sensation" and forgets all about the person you were before your life was taken away. 
  I know that many of you will either agree with what I am saying, or just pass me off as another gun nut, but think of this the next time you read about another one of these tragedies: what was the shooters name, and what were the victims names? If you can answer the first question, and not the second, then you have given the killer exactly what they wanted. But I promise you, the next person who carries out an act like this, will most likely not be a person with the right to purchase and legally carry a firearm in your community. Guns aren't the problem folks, we are...

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dim Sum Pt 2

Dim sum continued...

  As I stated in my last blog entry, MS is like Dim Sum. You are sitting at your table of life and little plates of symptoms are delivered to you. Most of these symptoms, if you are lucky, are short lasting and last just enough to give you a sense of what they are and leave you confused until the symptom wanes or stays permanently. I have received several plates, and some of those little meals have stayed with me, others were merely appetizers. Honestly, most of these are quite funny for the first few days as you are completely unsure what to do or how to compensate. 

  One of my favorites has been the change and occasional loss of balance. One minute you are standing there, and the next minute you are hanging onto whatever happened to be close to you when you started falling. On several occasions this happened to be the floor, and I was able to get a good hold of it with my face. Other times the closest thing has been another person, and if you do it properly when you grab that unsuspecting person and your entire body weight takes them by surprise you are able to fall on top of them thus cushioning your fall to the floor below you. I recommend this method as the ground tends to be hard and it is always nice to have some type of cushion when you suddenly feel the need to explore it. 
  Now, most of the time when balance starts to become an issue, properly coordinated movement in your extremities have already shown themselves as unreliable. For me, my legs have often decided that they know what they are doing and don't need to take direction from my brain. When this happens, I find that I can appear to others as either a drunkard or what movies have taught us a zombie would walk like after their reanimation from the dead. On Halloween this is not a problem, and if you dress accordingly you might even find yourself taking first place at a costume party which is something that I have never been able to do with a good deal of plotting and good health. Unfortunately, this can also cause you to stumble around when you are out and about in town or walking around campus, the mall, a sobriety  check point, etc. 
  Along this topic, I have told my children hundreds of times to walk down the stairs properly and that the stairs are not there to be used to play games. We have all seen our kids try to slide down the stairs in a number of fashions and have told them the same hundred times to walk down/up the stairs like a normal person and that they could even be hurt doing it any other way. Yet, when balance and coordination turn on you, stairs can be either a death trap or an adventure. Several times a week I test gravity on my home stairs. I prefer not to say that I "fall down" the stairs, I have just found a faster way from the top of them to the bottom. If I can position myself correctly during my gravity test, I am able to slide from the top of the stairs across the hardwood floor right to the front door. I am debating about buying a pair of track pants and having my wife open the front door so that I can go from the top of the stairs, across the living room floor, out the front door, down the porch stairs, and right to the door of my truck. Just imagine all the time I would be able to save myself when I am leaving the house! Unfortunately, when my kids see (or more often hear) me gravitationally relocating from the upstairs to the downstairs they chide me for playing on the stairs like I have told them not to do so many times before. 
  How do you explain to an 8 and 4 year-old that you fall down the stairs because Daddy is sick and has not a lot of control over his balance and movements and tries very hard not to hurt himself when he uses the stairs. As I have discovered, there is no easy way to have this discussion, so instead I hang my head in shame, brush myself off, and tell them in my best authoritative Daddy voice: "go ahead, do it! But don't tell your mother I allowed it!" 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dim Sum

  One of my best memories from when I was just a wee little lad (other than being a "husky" lad and not actually little) was when my aunt Tamar would take me out on Sundays to dim sum in Falls Church. Now, if you have never been to dim sum here is how it works. You get seated at a table like you would anytime you go to a Chinese restaurant (I always remember the tables being round, but that may just be my own strange twist on the memory) and hot tea was placed at the table for your main beverage. Pushing carts around the restaurant were the servers. On these carts were small dishes containing one type of item such as dumplings, or egg rolls, et cetera. The cart would make it's way through the place and when it approached your table and the server told you what that particular cart had on it you could ask for a plate or pass and they would move onto the next table with another cart offering a different menu item would arrive shortly afterwards and the process would continue. What I remember liking the most about dim sum is that you could try a whole bunch of different items, and the portions were small so you didn't fill up on only one or two items leaving you wishing that you had more room to try the other selections. Of course, let's face it, I was a pudgy little guy with ample stomach space that rivaled your grandparents attic in the amount of things I could store in it.
  Now, I am sure that you are reading this wondering why in the hell I am talking about a memory of Chinese food experiences from 2 and a half decades ago. Well:

  A: I just mentioned several times that I was a fatty, thus food has many places in my memories.
  B: I thought that the experience was the neatest thing ever when I was young (buffet style restaurants were not yet a staple in American culture since this was pre-obesity epidemic)
  C: I enjoyed the outings with Tamar, and Chinese food has always been a big favorite of mine.
  E: I have just come to the conclusion recently that MS is the dim sum of disease...

   Ok, now your mind is trying to figure out how I can relate this wonderfully erratic disease with this amazing type of cultural primitive buffet style culinary experience. Of course, if you have never had dim sum, you might actually be trying to google a local place that you can go to in order to have your own awesome dim sum so that you can judge for yourself whether or not I had a great experience related to you through words and my early childhood memory, or whether or not I just really like food and think about it way too much in my adult life.
   Dim sum allows a person to experience different dishes in relatively small doses, meaning that you are more willing to try foods that you would normally not order off of a conventional menu because you don't want to commit to a entire dish that you might not enjoy and thus you order the same thing 
the you ordered last time that you liked and you hope that someone else orders something that you can take a bite or two of to see if you like it and then next time you might just order that instead of the beef and broccoli that you get everytime. As any medical professional who is familiar with MS will tell you, MS is considered a designer disease in the way that every person who has MS has different symptoms at different times. Since most forms of MS have periods of partial if not total  remittal of symptoms before another symptom appears, this disease that I have come be afflicted with and poke fun at reminded me of these enjoyable childhood experiences where I would go out and  consume dim sum with my aunt. 
  Personally, I never wanted to be in a wheel chair. However, as a kid I had a friend who was confined to a wheel chair and I once did a weekend experiment to see what it must be like to be wheel chair bound. With my dim sum disease one of the dishes that was served to me was a small plate of wheel chair. Not wanting to be rude to my host Mr MS, I graciously took a bite of wheel chair, and on those days where my legs just don't want to cooperate and I look like Bambi trying to walk across the frozen lake, I have to enjoy my serving of wheel chair with a smile on my face to not appear rude to my host. Let me tell you now, it may seem like a good time being in a chair with 4 wheels and rolling around (and if you are a little sadistic like me; rolling over) things instead of
walking all over the place, it isn't. First off, you will become very upset with the person you contracted to lay carpet in your home because you can now feel EVERY imperfection in the carpet and if you had some good speed going when you encountered an unexpected carpeted speed bump, you get a very up close look at that "perfect" carpet that your spouse most likely forced you to accept
in the house because you have now pulled a Mighty Mouse and flown out of your chair through the  air with one arm in front of you as if you are posing for your action hero trading card before you land face first on the carpet and get a chance to examine it up close for any further imperfections.  Now, if 
you have children, then most likely the speed you were traveling at was caused by one or all of them. Before you get too upset at them for turning you into a four wheeled cripple missile, just remember back to the days when you were teaching them how to ride a bike. "I promise I won't let go honey,  daddy/mommy is right here with you!" What did you do after they started peddling and gaining some speed? You let go! This is just them getting a little revenge, take no permenent offense to it. If they 
were not the cause of your speed prior to your impromptu floor stretching exercises, try your best to 
laugh with them since by this time the are about to join you on the floor with how hard I am sure they will be laughing. 
  Another dish that might be served to you as it was to me, is numbness. This one can be fun and potentially profitable to you if you let it be. My numbness started as a small dim sum dish and turned into a serving place sized dish shortly afterwards. I went numb from the shoulder blade all the way down the left side of my body with the spread stopping right in the middle of my body (belly button and butt crack if you need distinguishing land marks to figure out how to split a body down the middle. Now, carry with you some toothpics or lobster forks. I also recommend small band aids. When you are out in a social gathering and the imbibing of alcohol is occurring, bet one of your slightly inebriated friends that you can put a certain number (you decide how based on the surface area of the numbness, the intoxication level of your friend, your own intoxication level, and the monetary amount of the bet) of toothpicks or lobster forks into your skin as if you were being stabbed with them. Again, use the calculation I provided above for maximum income potential and minimal person injury. If you need to, consult a calculater and perhaps some graphing paper to work out the mathematical equation prior to confirming the wager. 
  My favorite dish has been speech problems. This is a dish that the MS dim sum tray may circle around with offering a few different varieties of this particular entree. Sometimes you may just get a plate with an assortment for you to try. For instance, my plate had sporadic word recognition difficulty. Sporadic loss of train of thought in the middle of a conversation to the point that you do not even remember the last words that you spoke before it occurred. My personal favorite, the ability to speak in cursive. Now that last one is a fairly constant one for me. I speak in cursive many times most of the day, and sometimes it is extremely noticeable and other times it is somewhat subtle. Right now you are trying to figure out what "speaking in cursive" is and sounds like. Well, if you want to be an ass about it, it is slurring your words. There are times that this dish will make you sound like you just left an awesome "kegger" and the mere fact that you are still vertical is a miracle!

  Basically what I am getting at is that to me, MS is a dim sum meal with some really horrible menu items, and because you don't want to offend your host, you are going to take a plate of each item that is offered whether you like it or not, and the fact is you won't like most of the items. But, if you are willing to have a little bit of fun with this dim sum presentations to you, I promise that they won't seem so bad, won't last as long, and you will gain a positive experience looking back upon it. This simple thing to remember is that it is still YOUR life and you have to do with it as you please. But, try starting it with some humor.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Rehab is in order

  I awoke this afternoon like I do any other day. I turned on the shower and sat upon the toilet to pee and slowly come to my senses. Unlike most days, I noticed that my right arm seemed to feel different than normal. Now to explain this sensation is actually not easy to accomplish. Though I consider myself to be a very capable wordsmith (except for the times when my brain refuses to allow me access to my word recognition bank) and can normally describe something so that the reader can completely visualize what I am trying to convey to them, this change in my physical being seemed to escape description when I tried to explain it to my wife earlier this evening. My right arm I am convinced is either an alcoholic or is taking hard illicit drugs when I am not around to stop it!
  Whilst dressing myself this morning, which has become a challenge most of the time for me now, I found that what my brain was telling my hand to do was not relaying properly to the digits that are connected to my hand. Sure, my fingers were moving, but they weren't quite moving properly, nor were they working in a true coordinated fashion. Again, sometimes little things like this happen to me, but most of the time it is my left side that acts as if it is rebelling against my orders, not my stronger and well behaved right side.
   I drove to work as usual with my regular stop at Sheetz for my much needed 1st cup of coffee. I filled my cup with the brown gold that I can't live without when I am starting my day, and attempted to secure the lid to the cup. Normally the lid just pops right into place, allowing me somewhat secure and safe mandibular access to my favorite beverage as I zoom down the road to Charlottesville. However, the lid didn't seem to want to snap into place today. I tried several times to pick up the lid, and at least three times it would get just a few inches from my cup when it would jump out of my grasp and fall next to the cup on the counter. Figuring that perhaps my lid did not wish to be lid-napped from it's well stacked friends, I once again attempted to secure it into it's proper place on the rim of my cup. This time it must have decided that it should test itself and see if it measured up to the job by placing itself into the coffee. Well, I will say that the manufacturer has great standards for its product because the lid was able to enter into the rather hot coffee without rendering it useless by melting or crumbling into a gooey mass of twisted horrifically mutilated plastic. I removed my now coffee flavored lid from it's quick bath and again attempted to secure it to the rim of my cup. With the assistance of my left hand, it finally felt that it had passed all endurance tests and was up to the task of keeping the liquid inside of my cup whilst allowing my lips and small amount of suction to withdraw the contained fluids into my mouth at my whim and desire.
   Once at work things seemed fine. Honestly, I drive a SUV around town and pick people up when they call me. Normally once I get to work my boss takes the opportunity to transfer the business phone line to me so that he can partake in some type of sport, usually golf or bowling often including one handed aluminum arm curls (drinking) and sometimes will use the time to get a little bit of sleep before he gets the phones sent back to him at 3 or 4am when I go home. As with any job where you answer a phone, write down information, no disseminate it to other employees, I always have a notepad in the center console of my truck so that I may jot down the dispatch information before dispatching it to one of my drivers. I have even managed to keep a few different pens with my notebook without them being reallocated by my wife into her vortex of writing implements that seem to also occasionally fall into a black hole located within the deep recesses of the suitcase that she calls a purse. I have my mobile office set up just the way I like it and love knowing that everything is right where I left it so that it is always at my disposal no matter how quickly I may need to access it. It is a good feeling to be organized!
  Shortly after taking control of the company management functions today, the first dispatch call comes in. As always I have my notepad and pen at the ready to record the information. As the caller is giving me the information, I notice that what I am writing is practically illegible to me. I know what I should be writing down because I always repeat what the customer says to ensure that I am understanding them correctly, but my writing hand (I am obviously right handed in case you have not figured that out yet) is writing as if the English language is a foreign concept and is not familiar with the symbols that I mean to be putting on the paper below it. To say my writing is like that of a child would be an insult to any child. My 8 year old has neater pensmanship than the hieroglyphics that I was seeing being scrawled out before me. At this point, I actually had to get the customer to hold so that I could open the notepad app on my iPad just to be able to record the customer information in a manner that would allow me to be able to understand it and relay it to one of my other drivers. 
  After I took the customers information and called one of my drivers to dispatch them to the customer's location, I looked at the pen in my hand to ensure that it had not been tampered with. You know, perhaps someone thought it would get a good laugh to give me a trick pen, or there was some type of small creature within the pen casing that was working on their Gangnam Style dance atop the ink cartridge causing it to move in a different manner than it normally would when one is trying to write. Upon my completed inspection, the pen appeared to be completely normal in all regards. I again attempted to write some words on the notepad, and again it appeared to be some strange language that I do not ever recall being taught. I have actually seen stroke victims with severe residual side effects write in a more legible manner than I was performing. I then grabbed one of the other pens that I keep in my console and attempted to write with that one hoping that perhaps the pen that I had been using just wasn't sitting properly in my hand and that was the cause for my animalistic scribble. I know for a fact that this pen worked perfectly yesterday, and thus should perform to my writing standards without fail today, however as I moved it over the paper to form the letters that make up my name as I have done for the last 33 years, I was unable to recognize the letters that I had put down. 
   After this discovery, and some amazement at the hand that I was now staring at as If it had just been implanted onto the end of my wrist by some type of Dr Frankenstein in a secret lab before a bolt of lightning had reanimated the previously dead tissue, I could only come to one conclusion. My right hand has been secretly sneaking off when I am sleeping and engaging in some type of activity such as severe alcoholic intake or the use of illicit drugs. This is the only explanation. My hand is either drunk or high. 
   Now, before you accuse me of rushing to such a hard judgement against my poor defenseless little hand without any rock solid proof, let me explain my deductive reasoning that led to this unfortunate conclusion and the need for a swift intervention. 

 A: I do not drink. On very rare occasions I may have 1 mixed drink or 1 beer. These are normally special social occasions where there is some type of celebration going on (ie. birthday, wedding, anniversary, wake) and even then I limit myself to just 1. And, since I am very rarely a social person, and now that I have several symptoms of my disease so noticeable to people around me, I put myself in social situations even more rarely than I did before.
  B: I do not use illicit drugs. Yes, I do use several narcotic medications on a daily basis, but I have prescriptions for them all and an unfortunate necessity for them. Granted, I have used marijuana before, but not in the last 18-20 years. 

  By this deductive reasoning, I have come to the conclusion that my hand is engaging I these damaging behaviors when I am not around to supervise it and it must be stopped. Because of this, my wife and I are going to investigate where my hand has been going, and what bad influences it has been spending time with in the hopes that we can stop this behavior and get my hand the treatment it so desperately seems to need. Once we have isolated the bad influences, we plan to sit down in a warm, soothing and comfortable environment filled with love and try to get it to accept treatment on it's own with our supportive words of encouragement so that it can return itself to the right hand that we all have come to love over these many decades together. I may ask that anyone with any attachment at all write a testimonial to assist us with this intervention that is unfortunately necessary to get "Righty" back onto the straight and legible path that it seems to have wandered away from. With all of our support and love, it will perhaps be able to overwhelm these demons that it is fighting with and will overcome the addiction that seems to have changed it from the "Righty" that I know we all love.
  Until then, thank God for the notepad app and for the semi legibility of my left hand! Sometimes I wonder if this is really my life, or just something like it...

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Am I really bloggin???

You know, I never thought that I would start a blog. I am the last person who shares my thoughts, feelings, hell, I hardly share my words with other living souls. Yet, here I am at almost 6am writing my first entry into the blogosphere. The strange thing is that I can really not take any credit for this journey I am embarking upon, for the credit belongs partially to my oldest daughter Jennifer who told  me a few weeks ago that she wanted to be a writer. I asked her to send me a sample of her writing, and reading it made me think of the novel I started writing when I was her age. Of course, like many things in life, I never finished it and it has been lost through the ages. The other portion of the credit goes to my amazing wife. I know it sound very cliche, but here's how it goes.

So, Jennifer sends me her story which I eagerly read the minute my inbox "dings" on my iPhone. When I am done reading it I immediately forward it to my wife who reads it. I wait a few days to email Jennifer back with my thoughts on the story because I am very careful about how I word things normally, and with my little girl I want to be extra careful because I don't want to say something that might sound wrong and then she is scarred for life and never pens another word. Whilst I am thinking about her story over the next few days, and reading her story several more times, I begin to get an idea for a story rolling about in my brain. This leads me to jot down (ok, type a long note on my iPad)  one evening (much like this one) where my insomnia is kicking my ass and I am sitting in bed listening to the snores of my wife as I play games on the iPad. A few days later I send my feedback to Jennifer and go about the rest of my day. 
  Anyway...Over several says I keep hearing the same scene playing over and over in my head. It is a scene that actually happened several years ago, but only this time it is more of a storyline rather than just a memory. Since I can't seem to get it out of my head, I open up the notebook app on my iPad and start jotting it down. Next thing I know I am writing a story. Granted, I didn't really think of it as a story at first, just an amalgamation of words describing past events from my memory, but when I emailed it to my wife later after writing as much as I felt like pushing out of my head, I was told that 
I have the beginnings of a novel and I am strongly urged to continue with it. 

So that brings me to where I am today. Sitting in our bed at some ungodly early hour when the rest of the world is either lucky enough to still be sleeping, or just rousing themselves out of bed to get ready for their daily journey, I am writing. Honestly, I should be working on what my wife considers to be 
an amazing story that she can't wait to see printed and on the New York Times Best-Seller list (at 
least one of us has faith in me), I am writing the beginnings of a blog that I hope to use to express all 
the things that rattle around in my head but are unfortunately hard for me to articulate because my 
mind has trouble forming complete sentences and I often lack the ability to begin a train of thought 
and continue it without pausing to try to remember what I was saying in the first place. 

   Ironically, I seem to have a much easier time typing this right now than I do speaking most of the 
time. To think that I have already taken my night time doses of both my Percocet and Soma (3 hours 
ago) and my new higher, better, stronger dose of Ambien CR (15 minutes ago) and really should have been put to sleep by this combination a long time ago. However, at least this is more productive than 
sitting here playing The Simpons game on this iPad which truly is very addicting!

So begins my new journey into the therapeutic (I hope) world of blogging. I can honestly say right now that when sleep does finally come for me today I will enter into it with a strange, yet fulfilling, sense that I have actually accomplished something good. I believe that I shall do this daily to get my cluttered thoughts out into the open per se rather than let them fade away with the rest of my mind. Of course, this could be another thing that I start and remains unfinished down the line. However it ends up going, it is definitely life, or at least something like it.