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Friday, November 25, 2016

Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Laurence Gonzales, and the Basic Training Rope Swing

              There’s a scene in Star Wars: A New Hope, where Luke has to use a rope / cable to swing over the Death Star shaft and inevitably ending not only his and Princess Leia’s escape, but their lives to Stormtroopers putting laser beams into his head. Like magic, he throws the rope and it lands perfectly so that the 2 of them are able to swing to success. Just like that, Indiana Jones was also able to perfect the rope swing when he escaped from crazed natives who were angry at him for being so damn cool and the hero of every young kid who happened to see the movie.
            So why couldn’t I do the same when I was in Basic Training?
            The answer is simple: mind over matter. 
            I decided I couldn’t do it, and I fell in the water accordingly. My drill instructor was even fuzzed out when he said, “F-in Glass” as the editor shortened it to “G-g-g-g-lass” instead. We all knew it was coming because I didn’t believe.
            For this, I got wet. It was the only obstacle I was wet on or failed, but I had to do all obstacles after it wet, which was both slippery and heavier. Not good.
            I’m not saying that an unrealistic belief would have solved things. After all, the Stockdale Paradox says that we must confront the brutal truths, but we must know we will prevail anyway. Here, the key would have been practice, not just one day, one attempt at the Confidence Course. However, life doesn’t always give us time to practice because obstacles show up at our doors, and WHAM! We’re forced to deal.
            That’s why prep time is now. 
            How we deal with Parkinsons, cancer, future surgery, an injury, a loss, or any other bad crap that befalls our lives is how we’ve been trained to handle it. For that, the key is to find our positivity now and hope it’s enough to carry us through the bad times, tough times, and obstacles. What positives and skills we have will get us through or help it not to be so hard.
            I believe that, and I know it’s what’s keeping me pretty level-headed as I deal with waiting for the next doctor appointments and the what ifs as well as the what ares that are here already. For this, I share the rope swing fail so that you know in the words of Bull Durham to “don’t think; it can only hurt the ballclub.” I also share Laurence Gonzales’ rules of survival because they too have helped me get through. 
            Do what you need to do. I believe in you, and you should, too.
            As a journalist, I've been writing about accidents for more than thirty years. In the last 15 or so years, I've concentrated on accidents in outdoor recreation, in an effort to understand who lives, who dies, and why. To my surprise, I found an eerie uniformity in the way people survive seemingly impossible circumstances. Decades and sometimes centuries apart, separated by culture, geography, race, language, and tradition, the most successful survivors–those who practice what I call “deep survival”–go through the same patterns of thought and behavior, the same transformation and spiritual discovery, in the course of keeping themselves alive. Not only that but it doesn't seem to matter whether they are surviving being lost in the wilderness or battling cancer, whether they're struggling through divorce or facing a business catastrophe–the strategies remain the same.

Survival should be thought of as a journey, a vision quest of the sort that Native Americans have had as a rite of passage for thousands of years. Once you're past the precipitating event–you're cast away at sea or told you have cancer–you have been enrolled in one of the oldest schools in history. Here are a few things I've learned that can help you pass the final exam.

1. Perceive and Believe. Don't fall into the deadly trap of denial or of immobilizing fear. Admit it: You're really in trouble and you're going to have to get yourself out.

2. Stay Calm – Use Your Anger In the initial crisis, survivors are not ruled by fear; instead, they make use of it. Their fear often feels like (and turns into) anger, which motivates them and makes them feel sharper.

3. Think, Analyze, and Plan. Survivors quickly organize, set up routines, and institute discipline. 

4. Take Correct, Decisive Action. Survivors are willing to take risks to save themselves and others. But they are simultaneously bold and cautious in what they will do. They handle what is within their power to deal with from moment to moment, hour to hour, day to day.

5. Celebrate your success. Survivors take great joy from even their smallest successes. This helps keep motivation high and prevents a lethal plunge into hopelessness. Viktor Frankl put it this way: “Don't aim at success–the more you aim at it and make it a target,the more you are going to miss it.”

7. Enjoy the Survival Journey. It may seem counterintuitive, but even in the worst circumstances, survivors find something to enjoy, some way to play and laugh. Survival can be tedious, and waiting itself is an art.

8. See the Beauty. Survivors are attuned to the wonder of their world, especially in the face of mortal danger. The appreciation of beauty, the feeling of awe, opens the senses to the environment. (When you see something beautiful, your pupils actually dilate.) When Saint-Exupery's plane went down in the Lybian Desert, he was certain that he was doomed, but he carried on in this spirit: “Here we are, condemned to death, and still the certainty of dying cannot compare with the pleasure I am feeling. The joy I take from this half an orange which I am holding in my hand is one of the greatest joys I have ever known.” At no time did he stop to bemoan his fate, or if he did, it was only to laugh at himself.

9. Believe That You Will Succeed. It is at this point, following what I call “the vision,” that the survivor's will to live becomes firmly fixed.

10. Surrender. Yes you might die. In fact, you wil die–we all do. But perhaps it doesn't have to be today. Don't let it worry you.

11. Do Whatever Is Necessary 

12. Never Give up If you're still alive, there is always one more thing that you can do.

Survivors are not easily discouraged by setbacks.


Life is a Beautiful Thing...

We know we're getting old when people we met as fresh-faced 9th graders (with an awesome sense of high school cool and a super-fun sense of humor) in 2002 are growing up to not only get married but to have smiley happy kids. All the same, nothing says happiness quite like a little kid's smile other than maybe all of the positive potential of a newborn baby. Congratulations, Ha on your daughter Penelope May. May her life be filled with joy and happiness. Oh, and a little bit of Dr. Seuss, too!

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Mistaken Symptoms

            I’m not sure how everyone else reacted to the idea of symptoms and the phrase “progressive degenerative neurological disease” after getting officially diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, but my bet is we all did some variation of the WebMD self-diagnosis. I’d pretty much bet money on the over if the betting line was 90%. The Internet is there, and if we use valid and reliable sites with credentials, we can learn a lot about our situation.
            No harm, no foul there.
            On one hand, this is learning. I, too, learned when Parkinson’s became a part of my life. On the other hand, there is hypochondria, which is inventing symptoms and diseases where there are none. Here, I created worry and fear over things I didn’t have a solid understanding of. Most times, I’m smart enough to back off before I get too deep down the rabbit hole, but I have gone a little far into the cave on other occasions. Hypochondria happens to a lot of us, too, and it is created out of our own anxieties and fears. Many of us have done this, too. My hand is up; I’m guilty. Nevertheless, we have to know when to say when and choose to live life.
            Anyway, recently, I have been having trouble getting my key in the front door at night. Jokes out – “I couldn’t find the hole.” I went about 3 nights in a row, trying to get the key in while standing on a dark porch to no luck whatsoever, and by the third night of frustration, I came to realize that things in my life would be making a major change in the form of the hand-eye coordination that I thought I knew being replaced with where life had left me. I took a deep breath and chose not to let it get me down. I’ve been pretty positive lately, so yeah.
Focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t do.
Inevitably, many people with Parkinson’s have trouble with buttons or other daily tasks. We need to make peace with these future losses, but we can’t let them rule our lives. Now how’s that for a conundrum? For me, it was better to focus on my awesome wife instead of this problem, at least late on a Thursday night.
            Nevertheless, all things forgotten about come back, and on the next day, I was coming home from being with my wife, and I hit the door first. Unlike the previous nights, it was light out, and I could see where my key was going and think about getting it just right. Thus, I went full speed ahead and went to open the door.
            But the key wouldn’t work this time either. I looked at the lock, and I could see the hole. My key was literally in the hole, but I couldn’t make it go in. Yes, you can cue the jokes again, but it wasn’t going in.
            That’s when my wife Heather alerted me to the fact she had put a new key on the keychain since she redid the doorknob on the garage at the same time I realized this was a silver key, not a faded American flag one. She’s handy like that. Apparently, she left the key out on the table for me, and I didn’t hear this note since we only see each other most nights around 830 / 9 pm, which is when I get home from my nighttime education job. By that point, I’m tired, which is a nice way of saying I have a real non-Parkinson’s problem that many husbands have. This is called selective listening.
            As a result, since I wasn’t doing, she was doing for me. She was solving a problem that I might someday have to deal with since I’m the guy who makes the lawnmower thing happen. Heather is more about the flowers. She does an excellent job with these.
            As for me, I now have to take an extra step to make sure that the key that falls into my hand when I move the keychain into the place my mind’s map knows it to be is the right key. If not, I need to replace it…

            And not focus on what it might be because there may be a much simpler explanation out there than the one I think it is.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ali, Stockdale, Epictetus, and Me!

            Muhammad Ali famously stated “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” I like that quote, and I’ve used it in my class as part of a welcome to the show PPT for both the students and myself to get our heads around the success thing that we all want in life.

I’ve spoken for quite some time now about powerful role models and heroes that it’s almost second nature to extol their virtues. I’ve done this well before the Parkinson’s symptoms and diagnosis, so it’s not like I use it because of that. In fact, now that I have Parkinson’s, I’ll address the elephant in the room that is my tremors in slide 2 (if slide one is the name of the class and the teacher). After that will come heroes, role models, and ideologies like Logotherapy, which help define me.

            In some ways, we are who we’ve always been. Our biological DNA defines some of that, for better or worse. Nevertheless, time changes or should change all things. As Colorado mountaineer Gerry Roach said, “Geologic time includes now.” As it did for Aron Ralston, the slot canyons of Utah changed over millions of years to become as they are. Unfortunately, the day Ralston was there, an 800-pound boulder moved, and it changed his life for the mentally better after rattling him for the physically worse. In a Michael J. Fox way, his disability has left him “lucky,” but it didn’t come for an easy price. He had to cut his own arm off and hike out of a desert prison to have a chance at life after he was trapped for 127 hours.

            This extra price is the point that philosopher Brian Johnson discusses when he elaborate on the Stockdale Paradox on a fascinating Youtube video by mixing Admiral James Stockdale’s experiences and lessons learned with the philosophy of Epictetus to show us how we learn from brutal facts and difficulties that essentially destroy us to build us back up. In this, they’re a lot like Basic Training, which I attended from April to June of 1990 at Lackland AFB in Texas.

Johnson refers to these as “hospital lectures.” By leaving in pain instead of joy, we come to be who we are meant to be. We live out our role, no matter what it is, to be better. We wear our scars, but we carry them with pride to be who we need to be.

            Right now, my role is to write, teach writing, and to inspire people by continuing to do and to not give up being active. I need to be good to people, and I need to spend time with my wife, family, and friends so that I can never lose track of who I really am.

In this journey, I see a lot of people struggling through crap. We’ve all been there. Some of us are working through there. We’re trying to get where we need to be. Some of us are looking back at the times that changed us and gave us our foundations. Being at an older place than we were then might keep us from remembering the man or woman we used to be, but thinking back, feeling reminders of the former self should show us how we’ve changed. We’ve moved on.

            That’s a good thing. Why stay the same? What waste that time? Simply put, choose to live life.

            I think of this today since my time in the Air Force ended 21 years ago today. There were some good times and some tough times. I met some very good people. They saw me through some bad decisions and a job I was never really meant to be in (medical technician) since it wasn’t who I really was. More than that, these people who I served with and befriended were my friends, and they saw something in me that I didn’t even see since they kept me going through the early 1990s and allowed me to learn from college, some powerful books, and life experiences to begin the serious steps that it took to be the man I am today.

            Today, at 45, I’m thankful for the past 21 years. I’m thankful for everything from Lakenheath to Bury St. Edmunds to West Lawn to Mount Penn to Ephrata. I’m glad to have seen this country from ocean to ocean, and I’m glad to be the man I am today and am becoming in the future. We wouldn’t be who we are without going down Frost’s roads without our sighs and misguided journeys.

            We may be works in progress, but we’re good people.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pat Tillman and Michael J Fox on Punishment and Rehabilitation

            “You are not who you are at your worst moment” is the message from Jon Krakauer’saccount of a youthful fight that Pat Tillman got into (as written in the book Where Men Win Glory), savaging a teenager by the name Darin Rosas, who he incorrectly perceived was with a group of teenagers looking to do damage to his friend Jeff Hechtle. Hechtle was actually the instigator to his own problems, but Tillman didn’t know that, so he saw the opportunity to swiftly and surely take out the biggest guy in the group as doing the right thing for a friend with a medical condition who was in serious trouble.
            He didn’t ask questions; he just did.
            Instead of talking about it first, he did the wrong thing and faced a potential felony charge, which would cause him to lose a college scholarship to play football. Nevertheless, instead of punishing him heavily, the judge considered her options and gave him a misdemeanor with 30 days in a youth facility and lots of community service. As a result of what could have been but wasn’t, he chose to take the opportunity to be a better man for the rest of his days, which saw him be an NFL star until 9.11, when he gave up a multi-million dollar contract to join the Army as a Ranger.
            Long story short, he later died for his choice to give up football to defend our country from real bad guys, but this isn’t about that. It’s about punishment. It’s about the choice to take the nuclear option or to rehabilitate a person at fault. Something needs done, but does the worst option need done? Rosas’s injuries said that something sufficient needed to happen, but did it mean destroying Tillman’s future to do it?
            We can debate that at length, but in the end, for the confusion the decision showed at the time, especially for Rosas’s family and friends, the severity of it was enough to wake up a young knucklehead and get him on the right foot again to not be such a violent jerk.
            To a degree, when we put our kids in time out or ground them, we choose to give a punishment, but we give them an option to forgive and forget about it tomorrow… hopefully.
            If you’re Christian, you’re obviously aware of “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Even if you’re not, I see it as a pretty good rule to live by. In fact, I’ve had these words printed out and taped on my office cabinet door for a couple years. Here, I like to remind myself that for all of the times that I seem to say “help me get out of this,” I should be offering the same to other people who might not be having the best day of their life when it comes to having my job duties decide their fate while still grading them fairly and accurately.
            For our desire to be lenient, we can’t always do this, nor can we be happy with imposing a serious grounding. Patterns are what they are. They have to be recognized by us or our overseers so that they can be redirected.
That’s just life.
Sometimes, we’re a cat purring on the sofa. Other times, we’re a bull in a china shop. Eventually, we all need to redirect for the mistakes we make. After all, no human is perfect. We recognize this, and we deal with situations of ourselves and others individually, fairly, and professionally. Whether it’s with employees, kids, students, friends, or family. Striking out to kibosh this stuff, while sometimes necessary, isn’t standard operating procedure for routine transgressions.
            Many people recognize this with their views on the justice system, for right or wrong. I don’t write this to be about that, but I will say that especially from a liberal viewpoint, there is questioning of the death penalty, prisoner rights, and the right to vote for felons. However, with the job system, liberal people seem to be very prone to go nuclear on employees for non-work related things in a much more conservative way than they would about other issues like leniency on drug-related crimes or not shooting at criminals robbing people’s houses.
            TakeTwitter handle guy Ice, who chose to troll Michael J. Fox to ask him, “Yo @realmikefox you gon do the #MannequinChallenge or nah?” The response from Fox was “SMH (shaking my head),” which was graceful in not rising to take on this discussion, but instead, it sought to address it for what it was: something impossible to believe would come from anyone.
            As I’ve been known to say, sometimes people just have a tendency to show their worst colors / suck / in the words of the Germans, be “nicht so gut.” I’m glad to see Fox didn’t go that route. Rather, he showed class. Kudos, Mike. That’s why so many people really do idolize and respect you.
            Nevertheless, the response from Fox’s defenders went further than that: “their RT @Sucmytwidder@OfficiallyIce Wonder how @Footaction feel about there (incorrect spelling on tweet) employees making fun of people with medical illness.”
            As a fellow sufferer of Parkinson’s who has lived long enough to experience bullying as well as to feel regret for being a youthful knucklehead who would like to take back things that I said to others, I clearly see how horrible and mean these words are. If they’re making fun of his tremors, it’s uncool to the highest level. If they’re making fun of the symptom of freezing (literally having the mind stop in the middle of walking so that the body freezes into place as it doesn’t know what to do next), they’re equally uncool to the highest level.
            But is this grounds to be fired?
            If Ice is out a job, does he end up on unemployment? Welfare? Angrier than he already is with the system that has relegated him to selling shoes for a living (no knock on that since my uncle followed in the footsteps of his ancestor to own his own shoe store, but it does mention that Ice probably can’t be doing much better than minimum wage at his job) instead of storming the globe as something internationally famous? Is his comment worth the nuclear option on him? If so, then who hires him next time when the time comes that he can be “forgiven?”
            What I’m getting at is could this man be rehabilitated? If he sat down with a bunch of people who had Parkinson’s, could we educate him to what we feel and live through so that he was able to see that jokes, while funny to some, are unfunny to more people, especially people who live with disabilities / difficulties?
            People will have the opinions that they do. Some will change when they see these are wrong. Others will still bully and troll and dislike and hate on sheer presence alone. We can’t change them, no matter how much we try or scream or attack them for being “evil.” We definitely can’t sing second grade songs with them to get them to learn.
Simply put, you can’t persuade people who are against you, so don’t try.
            For that matter, many of us can’t even protest Foot Action since we don’t shop there. I know I don’t. To tell you the truth, the last time I bought new shoes, I couldn’t have cared one bit what the salespeople, stockers, and employees at the shop did with their life. This doesn’t mean that I don’t like them, but it does mean that I never had a chance to interact with them in a way that would allow me to see if they were something unsavory.
Most places I go, I rarely see people on a “human” level. To be honest, most of us don’t, and that’s not bad. It just is. Occasionally, we’ll talk to waitresses or bank tellers on a personal level. Most times, we are just happy to get our stuff or our service as hope we will receive it when we pay for it. We want to be respected, and we want to like what people do for us without darkening our day, but rarely do we get into someone’s choice in politics, gender preference, religion, entertainment cravings, lifestyle, family, or hobbies, unless we see a picture on their desk to say something like “Wow! You went to ___” or “Cute kid!” or “That’s a huge marlin you caught!”
What I’m saying is Ice was a Jerk, but unless he’s a jerk to me on the job, I'm not asking to have him fired. Besides, I’m not planning to invite him over for cold drinks, pizza, and watching sports, so let’s at least cut him a break at his job, even if we really do have to readdress him socially.
            Here, my point is simple. Ice messed up. It would be nice for him to say, “I’m sorry. I was out of line. My bad.” Nevertheless, the world isn’t going to end if he doesn’t. Trolls exist. The politically correct can’t stop them. The sane middle can’t change them. The extremes that agree will always agree because that’s just where they ended up in their similar life trip. Nevertheless, if we took everyone out of work who ever said anything inappropriate and offensive, our country would be completely unemployed.
The key is to learn and to be better than stupid offhand typed and written comments.
Personally, I’m trying to work on my own karma. Some days, I do better than others. All the same, I’m trying. I hope Ice is, too. Mr. Fox, the rest of the world, and myself have better things to do than have to waste even one second of our time with something as simple as typing 3 letters to redirect him to be a less jerkish person than his most public action showed that he could be.
            Let’s just hope we can rehabilitate him at the simplest level before casting boulders at his glass house while being holier than thou about how perfect our own lives are. 
            After all, our own crap doesn’t smell like roses either.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Love is a good thing.

At the end of the day, a person is only as good as the team who supports him or her, and for this, I am lucky to have a wife, family, and friends to share personal comments and in-person motivations, as well as anonymous posters who show appreciation for my words and the situation that I am going through. In short, they get me through.
I don’t think that a lot of people outside the ___ community understand what someone who is connected to people with ___ goes through (here, I leave the spaces blank since you can make this Parkinson’s, PTSD, diabetes, ALS, cancer, or any other disability, disease, or problem people face in life). These people hurt, cry, and are as shaken up about this as the person. I know I’ve felt that way when I hear how close friends go through unhealthy times or when people die.
That stuff smarts.
For this, if you haven't thanked or supported a supporter, please do so.
In an ideal world, we’d be all healthy and "normal" and live long productive lives, but that’s not the way things goes. Instead, we need to relate to life as it happens. We need to be tough, and we can’t do it alone. That’s why one of my first assignments in class is to have people talk to their support systems about what they need to get through college so that someone else can help them do the laundry or dishes when time needs to go to homework. Additionally, teachers don’t always back-pat. We say, “Do this; do that.” We add, “That’s good” when an assignment is done, instead of screaming, “The hills are alive with the sound of music” like some people need to hear.
I'm not picking. I say this truthfully. Sometimes, I remember. Sometimes, I don't. That's why I high-fived the 8th grade girl I tutored yesterday. She looked at me like a bozo, but hey, I tried.
And it’s not that we don’t care; it’s just that we can’t always be the one and only all-powerful support system, and for this, we need the Verizon Network… just without Paul. That guy and his glasses are annoying.
In life, Maslow says we need love to get by. The Beatles echo this. That means we need family, friends, and people who say good things about us.
At its most intimate, there is the central duo. With that comes commitment and life together, and so, in marriage, we promise to take each other for better or worse, but do we really understand what "for worse" could be with regard to the "in sickness..." part of our vows? As a parent, mothers and fathers make a commitment to get their kids through anything, but often, life breaks down people’s strengths. Siblings and relatives connected by miles don’t always talk, so sometimes, things are seen in the abstract with, “Oh, X has Y. Did you hear about that? That sucks.”
We can’t always expect people, even close friends, to feel the pain of diagnosis and life difficulty now and to come. That’s a fact of life. But through it all and despite our difficulties and idiosyncrasies, they do.
For this, I am lucky to have people who understand and care, genuinely and infinitely. That's a good thing.
To exemplify that feeling, I am incredibly lottery winner lucky to have a wife who loves me and supports me while joining me for doctor’s appointments and still dreaming about tropical vacations with me as well as thinking about going to New Orleans and the Canyonlands / Yellowstone / Tetons trip we want to take. I don’t often say just how much I love and appreciate her, but for all our lives have seen and accomplished since our first date on December 1, 2007, life has been better with Heather. It’s nice to be able to go home to her and share a life and thoughts on the day. Love is a good thing, and I’m glad I get to love her.
By the way, we met on Match Dot Com. Yes, online does offer great love opportunities.
I also have a family, from my parents to my cousins through to aunts, uncles, and other titles too numerous to mention, who feel every bit of this journey. I’m strong for them, and they’re strong for me. It’s what it has to be. It’s hard to see people silently going through pain over where things are and will be, but for the most part, I’m pretty positive. How can I not be? I’ve got Missy Elliott’s “Pep Rally” to scream along to.
And that is one dang good song.
But family and friends, yeah. I may not always talk a lot or seem like I’m listening, but I am. I’m appreciative for all I’ve got. It’s really the only way I can be.
I appreciate those who read the blogs, buy the books, go hiking with me, yammer on the phone, send messages, hang out, offer advice, send mix CDs, or who represent my history. You helped make me me. 

Thank you all! You guys and gals rock. Mucho love.

Nearly Lost You - 200 things I am thankful for.... (REVISED)

             There are times in life where we forget all of the things that once mattered to us, and this slight of our interests and joys leaves us caught up with all of the oppressive feelings that stem from things that we have to do. When every day is just wake up, shower, go to work, come home, unwind, and sleep with time for meals and bathroom breaks, life feels routine and repetitive, and that's never a good thing, especially when you feel yourself saying, "Wasn't I just doing this same thing yesterday?" 
             I think about this conundrum that is adulting / getting older and realize how much the combination of work, have to accomplish, and Parkinson's concerns eat into my life, and like the Chipmunks movie that my sister told me was actually enjoyable when she watched it with her kids, I'd like some time back in my life to do the kind of things that I want to do instead of the things that I was stuck doing. 
             So here we are, and it was July 9th before my wife and I were finally finding time to get out in the yard to open up our Siesta and Fiesta Zones. Mind you, the pond with waterfalls (directly in front of it) still isn't up and running, but at least we got to sit in the backyard for a relaxing night with a roaring fire and some lightning bugs popping on and off in the darkness. While I'm not a marshmallow guy, my wife likes them, so she got that in. 
             Reflecting on that now, it's easy to say that hings like that make me happy, and I need more relaxing times like that. It also helps to have a fire poker!

             This is the same way that I feel when I'm contemplating going out hiking. There is the rusty way that I get when I'm trying to get myself moving (and the object at rest doesn't move), and then there's the conundrum of whether to drive somewhere interesting, which inevitably is at least an hour to Duncannon or Port Clinton to hit the Appalachian Trail for views, or to decide if I'd just rather walk the paved rails to trails close to home (also, the only option if I need to be somewhere at a certain time). Then I can just walk out my front door and put 6 miles in over about 2 hours. However, if I want the really good views, that's a 2-3 hour drive. then I have to think about how I'm going to feel driving home, but since this is calling me sooner than later, I'm already getting myself jazzed to go for another walk in the woods. I guess I'll just need some serious metal / rawk music for the way home!

             When I think about those views at the good places, I realize I live in the wrong town since all the scenic vistas in Pennsylvania tend to be north, northeast, or northwest from me. 

             We do have some beautiful farm fields and country in Amish Paradise, Pennsylvania, but we aren't up in Mountain Amish Land. Now that's some big sweeping views (which is why it's called Big Valley!).

              There's a lot of really great places up there. One of them is my favorite view in all of Pennsylvania, which is called the Throne Room. I definitely want to go up there before summer's end. There's something about that mostly untouched vision that makes me truly feel at peace in the world. That's why I announced my Parkinson's on video from there. 

              Another place that I want to go that it's been a while since I walked out on is Spruce Knob, which is an amazing view on the Mid-State Trail (just past Huntingdon, Pennsylvania). There's a little bird watch rock sitting area that kind of camouflages people who sit up there from the elements. Oh, to be back in the cat bird's seat, if I do remember to remind myself how much I missed it.

              There's still a feeling in being able to push up mountains, however slowly, and through the trees to arrive at something spectacular, which makes me feel just as alive as I was before my diagnosis (September 27th 2016 was the 90% certain day, and November 1st was 100% certain, barring different autopsy results) and my wife's ACL tear (which started on the other side of those rocks, which was a serious climb and descent before re-stabilizing the makeshift splint). 

               Those days were a few years ago (her accident was April 11th 2015 - a day after her birthday), but they're not that far away that I don't remember them. Even now, with all of the time that is "scheduled," there is still ability and opportunities to get out and to do and to be, but I just have to make sure I do that. In the days where it all seems so "today is a repeat of yesterday," it feels like it's a million years ago, and we (I, you, us, our friends, our families, our neighbors, our associates, the kid who works in the drive thru window at McDonald's, and my local weather person) can't let it set in or we lose the part of us that is us. 
              Because when we let it feel like this, it's like we forget to do the things we like because we're so caught up in the "get through it" that we forget to "enjoy the ride." From what the experts in the Happiness Reader that we use for my writing class say, that's the key to happiness. I'll let you know for sure when I figure it out, but I believe it's true, and you can confirm if it is.
              Simply put, it's never a bad day to get between the trees somewhere. Sitting here now, waiting for the first few weeks of August to take advantage of this when I have more unlimited "me" time... that's a lot of what keeps me going. They always say that if you know what you want out of it, you can work to achieve things, and I believe that's true of life in general. And it's for the good things and people that I push forward. Whether it's goofing with my godson Dylan (AKA Big D) or having fun weekend getaways with my wife, it's all good. In a forest or a city, all things are possible with the right mindset. 
Choose to live life.

         I think about this today because I found out that one of my friends, an older guy who just had surgery, is having problems with the healing process, particularly with regard to sleep and medications. It makes me sad because nobody should have to suffer, and I see how much it's cramping his style and making him serious about the complications (older men don't emote their problems enough, so when they do, you know it's something for realsies).
         I often hear people talk about health problems and issues with getting used to medicines (isn't that a lot of what we PD people do as well when we support and inform one another), and I can relate because I do, too, but I want to not do that for a second. Instead I'll say something else:
You're awesome and I appreciate you for both
 the fact that you're a great person and you're
taking the time to read my story
           With this, for whatever we don't have going for us, we do have a fair bit of good things that  we should be thankful for. To illustrate that, I list what I am thankful for.
           A note on this, I give this assignment to adult students to spur writing out ideas. I find that it's a very positive experience, if nothing else, for the fact people who do it comment favorably regarding the exercise and they don't groan about it like the larger 6-10 page essays (a walk in the park - my MED thesis was 61!). I don't have any problems getting it in on time either, so that's something.
So if I were to list all of the things I am thankful for, this would be it. What's your top 100?

1.      The chance to overcome the obstacles / disabilities in my life and to be a role model / activist for others.
2.      People who are genuinely concerned about my health and well-being
3.      My faith / philosophy in the universe / God
4.      My faith / philosophy in myself
5.      My marriage to Heather
6.      A warm, safe, comfortable and homey house with Heather
7.      True love and all the good things it brings
8.      My health (mental / physical)
9.      The pre-existing conditions clause in our healthcare laws
10.  Hearing (being able to)
11.  Seeing (being able to)
12.  Smelling (being able to)
13.  Touching (being able to)
14.  Tasting (being able to)
15.   Nature to breathe in and rejoice for life in
16.  My parents
17.  My nephew / godson Big D
18.  My sister
19.  My extended family to include Heather’s family
20.  Long-term friends like Will and Heidi + Pete + Dale + Alina + Steph+Ken+Rhett+Abel
21.  Everyday friends
22.  Workplace colleagues
23.  Bosses that work with me and that I can work with
24.  My students who work hard to teach me how to be a better teacher
25.  Sharing my learning with students
26.  Being literate
27.  Being proud to be a geeky learner
28.  Being able to write letters of references.
29.  Being the author of multiple books
31.  Creativity in general
32.  Discipline and drive to finish my autobiography Eureka, Nevada, which is too personal to publish
33.  Real life inspiration chronicled in said book that convinced me to be a teacher
34.  Discipline and drive to write the rest of Intersections (in multiple books) and the bravery to print it and the other books I’m currently working on when the time comes
35.  Inspiration to write my first non-ghost story for publishing during this year
36.  Photography – both pictures I’ve taken and had shared with me.
37.  Hiking experiences that I’ve had
38.  Bears that I’ve seen – even if only for 10 seconds.
39.  Getting rid of my fear of heights long enough to climb over rocks or to descend down over rock piles
40.  Having friends who know that phony tough or pushing too hard to do something on the trail could equal real dead.
41.  Being intelligent enough to teach others how to be researchers who can better understand things.
42.  A job to pay the bills and do the things I want to do.
43.  Teaching opportunities, wherever they may be
44.  Being able to donate $ to charities like Make a Wish, United Way, Ronald McDonald House, Michael J. Fox Foundation, and Water Street Ministries
45.  The people of the various trail groups who keep paths open
46.  Being able to volunteer for organizations like the Standing Stone Trail and Keystone Trails Association
47.  Having my aunt Toot in my life, who thinks about me enough to do the church raffle ticket and to bake cookies for me
48.  Winning the church raffle and being able to help Heather with her bills
49.  Food to eat.
50.  Clothes to wear.
51.  A calm mind that allows me to “purr like a cat” – most of the time
52.  My time in the Air Force (with organization and people) because it made me who I am.
53.  Being made chowrunner in basic training to learn to speak confidently in front of other people without fear of their reaction
54.  Time spent in England for the experiences and travels it allowed me to participate in
55.  All of my road trips across America
56.  The national parks of America
57.  Watching videos about the canyon descents of Squamish, British Columbia. I may never be able to do that, but I like the vicarious experience, too.
58.  The opportunity to be forgiven and to forgive others
59.  Christmas get togethers
60.  Thanksgiving get togethers
61.  The music of Neutral Milk Hotel
62.  The music of Polyphonic Spree
63.  Other songs to inspire me, mellow me out, or let me rock out
64.  Star Wars in all of its many forms
65.  Bull Durham… best movie ever
66.  Movies in IMAX 3D
67.  The Macho Dude (my Yaris)
68.  Letchworth State Park
69.  Ludlowville Falls and the icicles / hoarfrost that are suspended from the roof of its cave
70.  Millions of stars and the Milky Way up in the sky with no light pollution
71.  The thought that someday I will go to Bora Bora with Heather
72.  The thought that someday I will go to the Native American sites of the Colorado Plateau with Heather – the Great American Petroglyph tour (esp. the Holy Ghost Panel, 9 Mile Canyon, and Chaco Canyon, as well as back to Mesa Verde)
73.  The thought that someday I will go to the Pacific Coast with Heather
74.  Waterfalls that I’ve seen and experienced.
75.  Waterfalls that I dream of experiencing
76.  Frozen waterfalls
77.  Being able to safely hike through the water at Sullivan Run to see waterfalls via the stream trail that requires climbing waterfalls
78.  The taste and smell of cinnamon
79.  The smell of pine forests
80.  Warm showers
81.  Hot tubs
82.  Back massages
83.  Historical places being preserved all over the world.
84.  People who stand up to historical artifact destruction
85.  Art is a good thing – if people put their heart and soul into it.
86.  Adventures in slot canyons that I have taken and watched
87.  0° sleeping bags and getting to camp outdoors over Halloween weekend as an annual event.
88.  My PSA 8 Roger Maris rookie card.
89.  My cool prescription sunglasses
90.  The Internet
91.  Microsoft Office
92.  Facebook to keep in touch with people
93.  MLBTV
94.  Pepperoni pizza
95.  Chicken
96.  Chocolate iced donuts
97.  Brownies
98.  Lasagna
99.  Cheesecake factory dessert time
100.                      The elusive chocolate iced donuts with brownie batter inside of them.
101.                      Jackie Robinson
102.                      Baseball
103.                      Sabrmetrics
104.                      Ghost, cryptid, and alien shows.
105.                      Raspberry iced tea
106.                      Red lobster cheddar bay biscuits
107.                      Great blue herons
108.                      Mark McGwire’s 55th home run in 1998.
109.                      Pedro Martinez
110.                      Ken Burns baseball
111.                      The Goldbergs
112.                      The fact that I can make a shirt and tie look good (just like Will Smith) – or at least I believe I can
113.                      A sense of humor and funny television shows to make me laugh.
114.                      Classic rock music to feel a sense of summer even when it’s still cold out
115.                      Autumn leaves
116.                      Spring leaves
117.                      Humongous mushrooms in weird shapes appearing out of nowhere in the forest
118.                      Warm summer days that aren’t too hot.
119.                      Autumn days that are nice and warm enough for wearing a t-shirt.
120.                      Concerts to feel the musical vibe in person
121.                      The dental work I’ve recently had done
122.                      Neurologists who get it right and who give us the tools to move on.
123.                      The Stockdale Paradox
124.                      Logotherapy and Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning
125.                      Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
126.                      Vince Vaughn
127.                      South Park
128.                      Squirrels playing in the yard except when they’re taking out cushions
129.                      The Siesta Zone
130.                      Decorating for Christmas
131.                      Being able to do math in my head
132.                      A sense of wonder
133.                      The ability to daydream
134.                      Sam and the opportunity to have “another dad.”
135.                      Being able to play with dogs at the mall
136.                      Being able to look at a map and dream of vacations I’ll probably never take.
137.                      Youtube to watch and share
138.                      Scott Brown’s waterfall books.
139.                      Michael Kelsey’s slot canyon books.
140.                      The town of Ithaca and all its waterfalls.
141.                      Being able to marvel at the amazing ability of athletes
142.                      The motivation of people with obstacles telling us to THINK / ABLE
143.                      Maturity to deal with real life.
144.                      A sense of hope and understanding when things get tough.
145.                      Cheeseburgers with and without bacon
146.                      The Standing Stone Trail and all its sights and sites
147.                      Credit cards (for what they were intended)
148.                      The miracle of airplanes
149.                      Microwave ovens
150.                      Refrigeration / cold water / ice
151.                      My Kindle and the joy of digital readers
152.                      People who are willing to protect us (cops + military + family + friends)
153.                      Firemen + Medical + Red Cross type people to save us from disaster
154.                      Teachers
155.                      People who work hard to make a difference for others in little ways
156.                      People who tell us what we need to hear – not just what we want to hear.
157.                      Whales that jump out of the water at Cape May
158.                      Our 2012 vacation to Sandals in Jamaica
159.                      Dreams of a vacation to the Dominican Treehouse Place
160.                      Sleeping in.
161.                      Simple freedoms
162.                      The chance to make a difference for other people
163.                      Hot dogs
164.                      My grilled pork chops
165.                      Warm sweaters
166.                      My wife’s DIY talents
167.                      People who believe in me
168.                      Wifi / 4g for cellphones
169.                      Indoor plumbing
170.                      Old school Corvettes
171.                      Real Jeeps (Wranglers)
172.                      The movie Contact and the ideas of Carl Sagan
173.                      The Grateful Dead’s “Box of Rain”
174.                      Sugar’s “The Act We Act”
175.                      Tim Delaughter letting me use the Polyphonic Spree’s lyrics in my book
176.                      Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”
177.                      Prince’s “Purple Rain (live)”
178.                      Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird (live)”
179.                      Cheese Steaks from V+S
180.                      The interstate transportation system
181.                      Being able to get up and do whatever today.
182.                      The chance to help other people
183.                      The goofy and joyful laughter of kids
184.                      The choice to live life
185.                      Outback’s Alice Springs’ Chicken
186.                      Aron Ralston’s story
187.                      Laurence Gonzales’ Deep Survival and Surviving Survival Books
188.                      My wife’s giant tulip painting
189.                      Stargazer lilies
190.                      Peonies
191.                      Water lilies
192.                      Bald eagles in flight at places like Conowingo Dam
193.                      Migrating snow geese at Middle Creek
194.                      Movies and books about the triumph of the human soul
196.                      The writings of Thomas Friedman
197.                      The writings of Malcolm Gladwell
198.                      The writings and work of Paul Offit
199.                      The chance to be a part of history
200.                      The view from the Throne Room