Category Archives: healing

An Unexpected Gift 

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This post is a movie review for Thor : Ragnarok , though I don’t really plan on talking about the movie very much.   It was an excellent comic book movie in the same tongue-in-cheek comedy tradition as Guardians of the Galaxy.   It made me laugh and made me cheer.   It was the best of that kind of movie.  But it wasn’t the most important thing that happened that night.

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You see, I spent the weekend in the hospital thinking I had suffered a heart attack during the Thanksgiving holiday. I thought I was facing surgery at the very least.   I knew I might have had an appointment to play chess with the Grim Reaper.   It is a lot to worry about and drain all the fun out of life.

Well, one of the things that happened that day, Tuesday, my first full day out of the hospital and, hopefully, out of the woods over heart attacks, was that I received my new replacement bank card because my old one had a worn out, malfunctioning chip in it.  So, I took my three kids to the movie at the cheapest place we could find.  I tried to run my bank card for the payment, and it was summarily declined.  I had activated it previously during the day, and there was plenty of money in the account compared to the price, but it just wouldn’t take.  So I had to call Wells Fargo to find out whatever the new reason was for them to hate me.  It turned out that it had already been activated, but a glitch had caused it to decline the charge.  While I was talking to the girl from the Wells Fargo help desk, the lady who had gotten her and her husband’s tickets right before us put four tickets to the movie in my hand.

The middle-aged black couple had lingered by the ticket stand before going in to their movie just long enough to see a sad-looking old man with raggedy author’s beard and long Gandalf hair get turned down by the cheap-cinema ticket-taking teenager because the old coot’s one and only bank card was declined. They were moved to take matters into their own hands and paid for our tickets themselves.

That, you see, was the gift from my title.  Not so much that we got our movie tickets for free, but that the world still works that way.  There are still good people with empathetic and golden hearts willing to step in and do things to make the world a little bit better place.  The gift they gave me was the reassurance that, as bad and black as the world full of fascists that we have come to live in has become, it still has goodness and fellow feeling in it. People are still moved to pay things forward and make good on the promise to “love one another”.  I did not have a chance to thank them properly.  I was on the phone with Wells Fargo girl when it happened.  The only thing that couple got out of their good deed was thank-yous from my children and the knowledge that they had done something wonderful.  I plan to pay it forward as soon as I have the opportunity.  Not out of guilt or obligation, but because I need to be able to feel that feeling too at some point.

I do have one further gift to offer the world.

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After we got home from the movie, I opened an email that contained the cover proof for my novel, Magical Miss Morgan.  Soon I will have that in print also if I can keep Page Publishing from messing it up at the last moments before printing.  It is a novel about what a good teacher is and does.  It is the second best thing I have ever written.

Sometimes the gifts that you most desperately need come in unexpected fashion.

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Filed under commentary, compassion, happiness, healing, humor, illness, movie review, NOVEL WRITING, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Weekend Fun with Heart Attacks

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I’m not sure why I decided to have a heart attack over the holiday, but my body decided it was time and didn’t really give me a chance for input.   I should qualify it a little bit. I didn’t have an actual heart attack according to the final tests, but the preliminary tests were all red flags and shouting.

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So, I woke up in the middle of the night on Wednesday night with a pain in the left side of my chest.  My left arm was hurting and tingling with numbness.

Now, it is not something new.  I have arthritis in my rib cage and I tend to sleep on my left side.    So, although the pain was concerning, it was not reason to make a middle-of-the-night dash to the emergency room.  I eventually got back to sleep on my right side.  I was sluggish and ill the next morning, but I got a lot of house cleaning done and the chest pains were gone.

Thursday night the pains returned, but still not different than the arthritis pains that sent me to the cardiologist before, and not nearly as harsh and painful as the night before.   Again the pain went away in the day.

Friday night I picked up my son the Marine at the airport.  He was home on holiday leave.  We talked about my chest pains over a meal at I-hop.  He pulled rank on me and vowed to take me to the ER.  I talked him down to Primacare because it’s cheaper, still not believing it was real heart pain.

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The next morning Primacare didn’t go so well.  The EKG machine there predicted a major earthquake… or a typhoon, or something… and the Prima-doctor got all serious in the face.  “Do you want me to call an ambulance?  We are required to make the offer in these situations.”

“No, no.  My son is with me and can drive me to the Emergency Room.  I promise I will go.”

And so I did.

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At the ER they are very concerned that you don’t have anything in your pockets.  They quickly dressed me in a hospital gown and then surgically removed $200 (due to the wondrous way my insurance company has of not paying their portion of the bill).  So, lighter by that amount, they immediately hooked me up to their own EKG machine.  I had so many patches attached to the hair on my chest that I was guaranteed to be bald-chested when it came time to rip them all off again.  Then they  repeated the EKG testing done earlier in the day.  I swear, the same squirrel that was visiting Primacare when I was there earlier, sneaked into their EKG machine too and vigorously jumped up and down.  So, there it was.  The proof they needed that I had too much money left in my bank account.  And so they put me inside the hospital.

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Once inside, they rigged me up so one arm could be crushed by a BP sleeve every two hours, or more if they felt like it, and the other arm could be drained of blood so that they could tell if there was any further money in my bank account.

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Three days later, the enzymes in my blood said that what I had was mysterious and not a heart attack.  The stress test I had on Monday nearly killed me, and told them that I didn’t have enough money left in my bank account to keep in the hospital any longer.  I got out still wearing my arm band and allergy warning band as reminders that I really, really didn’t want to go back, but life is like that, and I still don’t know what caused it all, or if I will have to return to deal with it later on.

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Filed under autobiography, commentary, feeling sorry for myself, healing, health, humor, illness, Paffooney

Regrets…

Veterans day is here again.  It means something different now that my son is a Marine.  It was always a solemn and somber occasion in the past.  My great uncle on my father’s side died in World War II, a training accident inside a Navy gun turret.  My great uncle on my mother’s side was part of the second wave on the beach in Normandy.  He was injured by a German grenade and moderately disabled for the rest of his life.  I never got to hear war stories.  He was too damaged to ever talk about anything that happened in the war.  My mother’s cousin was flying a plane in the Viet Nam Conflict.  It went up, and didn’t come down again.  You think of those things, and wish it could be different.  You pray that it will be different for your son who is a soldier.

But when the worst that can happen comes to pass… there are no regrets.  Whatever future we have is rooted in the past.  Pain and suffering are difficult to manage, but when you manage them, it leaves you stronger… better as a person than you were before.  So I don’t take anything for granted.  I was not a warrior in this life.  I was a teacher, a story-teller.  And I made some mistakes along the way.  I have lost some whom I cared about very deeply.  Ruben, Fernando, and J.J. are all gone tragically.  I will always feel I should have done more to help them when they were boys and needed help.  Miraculously with the Gulf War, Afghanistan, and Iraq I have lost no former students to war, though many of mine have fought.  I pray that my luck continues to hold.

But there are no regrets.  And “you can listen as well as you hear”, so listen to this.  I love you.

Yes, I am talking to sons and daughters, to former students, to former colleagues, to everyone I have ever known.  And even if I don’t know you, never met you, even if you never get a chance to hear this message… I am talking to you also.  We are all one.  We all live and love and strive together, and even if we disagree to the point of war… we still belong to each other.  Thank you for being you.  You needed to hear that at least as much as I needed to say it.

My son is coming home on leave for Thanksgiving.  I will be giving thanks.

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Giving and Taking Stupid Advice

Let’s begin with some stupid advice. I don’t have time to write a lot today because the Princess is ill and must go see the doctor in Plano.  So the advice is; Set aside time for writing and always allow plenty of time for it.  You will probably notice already that I am giving you advice that I am not taking myself this morning.  So don’t follow that advice.  It is stupid advice.  I have given it to creative writing classes for years and thought I meant it.  But looking back on real life, I realize, it has never been true for me.  My best ideas, my best writing, always seem to come in the middle of the pressure-cooker of daily struggle and strife.  I have battled serious illness for most of my adult life.  I have the luck of a man who tried to avoid letting a black cat cross his path by crashing his bicycle at the top of a hill covered in clover with only three leaves each and then rolling down the hill, under a ladder, and crashing into a doorpost which knocks the horseshoe off the top.  The horseshoe lands on my stupid head with the “U” facing downward so the luck all drains out.  Bad things happen to me all the time.  But it makes for good writing.  Tell me you didn’t at least smile at the picture I just painted in your mind.  You might’ve even been unable to suppress a chuckle.  I am under time pressure and misfortune pressure and the need to rearrange my entire daily schedule.  So it is the perfect time to write.

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This essay, however, is about bad advice.  And I am a perfect person to rely on as a resource for bad advice.  I am full of it.  Of course, I mean I am full of bad advice, not that other thing we think of when someone tells me I am “Full of it!”  So here’s another bit of writing advice that is probably completely wrong and a bad idea to take without a grain of salt, or at least a doctor’s prescription.   You should stop bird-walking in your essay and get to the damn point!

 I know a lot about the subject of depression.  When I was a teenager, I came very close to suicide.  I experienced tidal waves of self-loathing and black-enveloping blankets of depression for reasons that I didn’t understand until I realized later in life that it all came from being a child-victim of sexual assault.  Somehow I muddled through and managed to self-medicate with journal writing and fantasy-fixations, thus avoiding a potentially serious alcohol or drug problem.  This is connected to my main idea, despite the fact that I am obviously not following the no bird-walking advice.  You see, with depression, Bad advice can kill you.  Seriously, people want to tell you to just, “Get over it!  Stop moping about and get on with life.  It isn’t real.  You are just being lazy.”

I have been on the inside of depression and I know for a fact that not taking it seriously can be deadly.  In fact, I have faced suicidal depression not only in myself, but in several former students and even my own children.  I have spent time in emergency rooms, mental hospitals, and therapists offices when I wasn’t myself the depression sufferer.  One of my high school classmates and one of my former students lost their battles and now are no longer among the living.  (Sorry, have to take a moment for tears again.)  But I learned how to help a depression sufferer.  You have to talk to them and make them listen at least to the part where you say, “I have been through this myself.  Don’t give in to it.  You can survive if you fight back.  And whatever you have to do, I will be right here for you.  You can talk to me about anything.  I will listen.  And I won’t try to give you any advice.”  Of course, after you say that to them, you do not leave them alone.  You stay by them and protect them from themselves, or make sure somebody that will do the same for them stays with them.  So far, that last bit of advice has worked for me.  But the fight can be life-long.  And it is a critical battle.

So taking advice from others is always an adventure.  Red pill?  Green pill?  Poison pill?  Which will you take?  I can’t decide for you.  Any advice I give you would probably just be stupid advice.  You have to weigh the evidence and decide for yourself.  What does this stupid essay even mean?  Isn’t it just a pile of stupid advice?  A concluding paragraph should tell you the answer if it can.  But, I fear, there is no answer this time.

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Dancing Towards the Brighter Light

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In Texas a little girl who has cerebral palsy committed the crime of crossing a border patrol station near Laredo on the way to having life-saving gall bladder surgery.  So the border patrol followed her to the hospital, waited until the surgery was finished, and then took her to a detention facility for deportation.  Wow!

We are a heartless people.  We elect heartless representatives to congress to make heartless laws to punish people for being poor, or not being white, or not being patriotic enough at football games during the playing of the national anthem.  We elected an orange-faced creature with bad hair to the presidency rather than electing a human being with a beating heart.   And why did we do that?  Because too many people were in favor of health care laws and regulations that help people we don’t like.  We elected him to send a message to all the people we don’t like.  That message was, “Screw you, why don’t you just die already?”  We like that message because we are a heartless people.

 

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But while we are only thinking of ourselves and vowing to let everybody else go to hell, somewhere the music of the dance begins to play.  Hear it yet?

Somewhere children are laughing.

Somewhere Santa Claus is real.

Holidays are approaching and, with indictments sealed and in the hands of prosecutors, possible impeachment looms.  The happy dance is about to begin again.

Or maybe it never really went away.  People did care, do care, about the crisis in Puerto Rico.  After the hurricane, Dippy Donald Dimwit tossed paper towels to survivors, apparently suggesting that all he needed to do was that to symbolically get all the people cleaning up while holding on to their own bootstraps and pulling with all their might.  Apparently heartless people believe you can levitate if you pull upwards on bootstraps.  But Tesla gifted the city of San Juan with solar panels and batteries and started set-up of an island-based solar power grid to get Puerto Rico back online in the modern world.  And Elon Musk is taking the steps towards building the future that the pumpkinhead in chief can’t even conceive in his empty pumpkin head.  The music sways and builds.  The dancers circle each other and first steps in ballet shoes begin.

We are a heartless people.  We suffer in our cubicles alone, angry at a heartless world.  “Why don’t you love me?” each one of us cries, “aren’t I worthy of love?”  But crying never solved a problem.  No, counting our regrets and hoarding the list of wrongs done to us never started a heart to beating.  But the music builds.  Try smiling at that hard-working clerk who takes your information at the DMV, and then thanking them at the end for their hard work even though they have to deny you the permit because there are more bits of paperwork that have to be found and signed.  Try making a joke in line at the post office that makes the other hundred and ten people actually laugh while waiting interminably.  Do your best to bring light to the darkness, not for yourself, but for other people.  The music builds.  Do you know the steps to the dance?  No?  Well, the steps won’t matter if you begin to move to the music, begin to glide… And the heart starts pumping, and we begin to feel alive again.  Hallelujah!  We are dancing towards the light again.

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Becoming a Nudist

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I have been to a nudist park and taken all my clothes off one time and one time only so far.  Yesterday was supposed to be visit number two.  On a Saturday there were supposed to be more visitors to meet and get to know… and I mean really get to know.  But it didn’t happen because of weather and poor health.  It rained.  And my blood sugar was a long way from perfect.  In many ways it was a relief not to go.  I was nervous about being with a crowd of naked people.  I was nervous about how to act and where to go, and especially, “What are the most embarrassing mistakes that beginning nudists make?”

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Because I figure I will probably make them.  And will it be extra embarrassing because I am walking around naked?  Probably.

But I do think it is not going to be a mere one-time experience that I will never do again.  I think I am committed to going back, not just because I am supposed to be writing for a nudist website, but because it benefits me health-wise, both physically and mentally.

To be specific, I have visited the Bluebonnet nudist park near Alvord, Texas. It is a beautiful campground and clubhouse facility.  I borrowed pictures from their website to post on this blog and give them a bit of extra advertising.

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Here’s the things that benefited me the most.  I got to meet some of the most welcoming and accepting people you ever want to meet.  They are polite, interesting to talk to, and just as naked and vulnerable as I am.  You can’t get much more socially equal than when you are talking to naked people.

The sunshine was also a very good thing for me.  The problem I have with psoriasis in old age is that the plaques and sores that result are never quite dry enough to heal when you are wearing clothes in the Texas heat.  But in the nude in the midst of nature, I felt cool and dry and hadn’t even a hint of the old itch that made me want to tear my skin off.

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They have a beautiful pool there, which I had all to myself during that first visit.  The picture with people in it is from their website.  It is one of two pools that they have there for weekly water-volleyball.

I didn’t believe it would be so relaxing and fun the first time I went, but I can safely say the feel of it, the sense of accomplishment of it, the feeling of self-acceptance it gives me, was worth all the risk of embarrassment I faced.  It was a stupid thing to do.  But I am not the only idiot drawn to it.  There are actually thousands of nudists in the United States.  There are even more  in Canada too.  I am actually glad I did it.  And though I didn’t make it back there on Saturday as originally planned, I do think I will be doing it again.

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Well, I Still Ain’t Dead

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Yesterday I posted a long, sappy golly-yabber about things I had to tell you before I die.  I had experienced chest pains in the night and was rather planning on dropping dead somewhere during the day yesterday.

But it didn’t happen.  It was the same arthritis pain in the left side of my rib-cage that sent me to the cardiologist twice before.  So this time I got by planning to be dead today, and then, happily, it turned out that this morning I am still here.  See, pessimism works!  You only get pleasant surprises that way.

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But I really do believe that it is the trouble we have in life that makes life worth living.  I have value as a human being because I can use my creativity, determination, and relatively unstable mental condition to take on any problem.  And if I should happen to be defeated, like I was in my quest to save the swimming pool, then my barely sane and somewhat loopy work ethic simply moves me on to the next crappy Mickey trap to figure out how to get the cheese out of it without getting killed.

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So I ain’t dead.  In fact, I am still following my own personal yellow brick road.  And while tomorrow is not guaranteed, I can still sing and dance like Ray Bolger and Judy Garland as I am off to see the wizard.  And no, I don’t think I’m Judy Garland in that metaphor.  At least… not most of the time.

 

 

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