So What Do I Know

March 27, 2012

I titled a recent Epistle “Knowing”. It talked about how knowing doesn’t mean anyone will listen or that even if they listen that you are understood. But at least you know. So what do I know? What has my life journey shown me that others don’t seem to get?

I attended my first Medicine Wheel workshop last night. In the center of the Wheel is a rock. It represents God by whatever name you call him, and however you understand him. But depending on your journey to the wheel you will be looking at God from a different angle. Now rocks never being a perfect sphere, your viewpoint of the rock is different depending on which direction you came from. Your journey to the Wheel determines your viewpoint. All our journeys are a least a little different.

The handicapped disability thing has been a part of my journey since the day I was born. I see the wheel differently because of that. So what has my journey taught me that many others don’t seem to get? We give up too easy.

If we can’t do it the way we used to, or the way it’s usually done, or the way most people do it, or it seems too hard, we are too quick to assume it’s not an option. I hear people tell me about things that aren’t an option for them who strongly believe what they are saying. They guarantee these things will never happen for them. They quit.

So I hired someone to dig a ditch for me. Things went well for three-quarters of the length of the ditch. The ground became harder. He struggled with it for a while then said, it’s too hard, this isn’t going to work. I wasn’t convinced so I said, “Let me try”. My legs were in the house leaning up against the bedroom wall at the time, so I dropped outa the wheelchair and crawled to the ditch. He handed me the shovel. It was hard. But I tried a few different angles and it began to work. The dirt was still hard but I made the ditch a little wider and deeper so it was easier to work with. I went about four feet, handed the shovel back and said, “I think you can finish it now”. I crawled back to the wheelchair. It got finished. We didn’t quit.

I’m not Superman, Jesus, or even Gandhi, that’s not the point here. Also, this person is not a quitter. He has achieved lofty goals in his life and continues to do so. So just what is the point?

If you decide you can’t do something … it ain’t gonna happen. On the other hand, once you decide you can do something … you’ll find a way.

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The Zone

March 17, 2012

They pull me out
How do I stop them

They pull me out
Why do I let them

They pull me out
What does it matter

They pull me less

Abuse Excuse

February 11, 2012

It’s ok, I’m a bully

It’s ok, I am big and you can’t stop me
It’s ok, I’m wearing glasses and you can’t hit me
It’s ok, I am old
It’s ok, I am a child

It’s ok, you made me do it

It’s ok, you made a mistake
It’s ok, you broke a rule
It’s ok, you are wrong
It’s ok, I disagree

It’s ok, my life is hard

It’s ok, I am tired
It’s ok, I am in pain
It’s ok, I have issues
It’s ok, I have history

It’s ok … I’m ok and you are not

Knowing

December 18, 2011

Knowing can be hard to share
Knowing doesn’t mean you are heard
Knowing doesn’t mean you are understood
Knowing can be lonely
But at least you know

My Christmas Story

November 27, 2011

One of my favorite things about the holidays is watching the movie “A Christmas Story.” The Red Ryder BB Gun always reminds me of the time a couple decades ago when I ran across a recipe for starlings in The Nero Wolfe Cookbook, and decided to give it a try.

I was living in the city at the time and harvesting dinner in the backyard with the old family shotgun didn’t seem like a good idea, so I picked up a Red Ryder BB gun at GI Joes. Before long I managed to get dinner in the oven without shooting my eye out.

The starling presented well, little drumsticks and all. It looked like a roast turkey scaled down for Barbie and Ken. It tasted pretty good too. I keep offering to fix it for friends and family …but so far no takers.

Sometimes Harry You Just Gotta Go For It

September 19, 2011

Glenn Jerome Blair was and is an amazing individual. Perhaps Glenn’s life can best be described by something he told me once when I was traveling down one of life’s paths and couldn’t see if and how it was all going to work out. I was discouraged and wanted more answers about the journey ahead. Glenn’s advice was “Sometimes Harry you just gotta go for it”! That was Glenn.

He always seemed to have a better car than the rest of the crowd, dressed `like a magazine model. The girls all loved him and if he wanted to talk to some girl or ask them out, he just went for it. Glenn’s college summer jobs weren’t usually of the typical cashier, camp counselor, or fast-food restaurant variety. You’d be more apt to find Glenn in high end shops catering to wealthy yacht owners.

Glenn wasn’t afraid to reach out and grab the golden ring. Back in the day all the guys envied James Bond. Glenn loved James Bond movies. He told me he talked with the CIA once about joining “the company”. He was unofficially offered a cryptography job in the Mediterranean ocean. Most of us just sat around and envied 007. Glenn applied for the job … then turned it down.

I was a bit older than Glenn but there were many areas where I went to him for counsel. Job search was one of those areas, especially as my fashion advisor. He for instance introduced me to the pressed Levi jeans and Harris Tweed sports coat look.

Glenn came to me for advice too. I’d get a frantic phone call and he’d want to talk over some crisis. So he’d show up for the big talk. His crisis would be something like, there’s these 3 amazing women and I’ve got tickets to the big concert and any one of them will go with me if I ask them … what do I do? So Glenn … explain to me how this is a problem? Another time he was in the market for a different car and he’d found three fantastic deals on three classic automobiles … what do I do? Same thing for career choices, job offers, how do I spend my summer vacation? Maybe I should take a year off and accept that guys offer to sail around the world.

Back then I often wondered how it would go if Glenn suddenly had a major setback of some kind. I grew up going to the Shriners Hospital for Children over in Portland. The kids I was in there with had some real problems. How would Glenn have dealt with problems like ours? Then along comes ALS. I need not have worried.
We were in the Horse Brass Pub shortly after his doctors came to the Lou Gehrig’s disease conclusion. We were meeting someone he knew from work. Good looking woman as I remember but she was much too busy being gagga over Glenn to notice my freshly ironed Levi jeans and Harris Tweed sport coat. Glenn ordered tomato juice. For those of you who have never been to the Horse Brass … just so you know … most people at the Horse Brass order something other than tomato juice. So this babe mentions the unusual order and Glenn says “Oh that … I need to avoid alcohol now that I’ve been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis”. You’d have thought he was explaining he’d switched mouthwash because Listerine doubles as a treatment for dandruff.

Gonna let you in on a little secret. Those of us who have visible disabilities that can result in cartoon double takes and mouth hanging stares from people … we have things we do to pull the focus away from all that. We use misdirection the same way a magician gets you looking and thinking about what one hand is doing while he does something tricky with the other hand. I know a couple guys who have no arms. They sit at the dinner table using silverware with their feet. Two minutes into a meal they have cast some magic spell over the situation and everyone has forgotten all about it.

Glenn was no exception. In spite of being new to all this, he was a master at it. I’ll never forget being out at our churches Lewis River Campgrounds a few weeks before Glenn started using a cane. He came out of the restrooms and headed down the sidewalk towards the dining hall like he was walking onto a yacht. All he needed was the apricot ascot like in the Carly Simon song. I remember thinking he had his dads walk … something I’d never noticed before. In fact it never occurred to me till I wrote this, but maybe he was aping his dads walk so people wouldn’t notice his own gait had changed. So the sidewalk used to have what sidewalk inspectors call a toe-kick where it met the road in front of the canteen. He paused just before stepping onto the road. He reminded me of Ben Cartwright checking out the Ponderosa while the Bonanza theme song played in the background. He looked around, then stepped out and moved on. What you could easily have missed in all his Ponderosa perusing was him taking in something he’d never needed to pay much attention to before. Not too fast and not to slow because either of those would draw attention … he took in … the toe-kick. He was good. Damn good.

Things progressed. Glenn took me for one of his last joy rides in the Porsche. He never had any trouble finding the accelerator and that day was no exception. We flew up the gorge turned around at the Bridge of the Gods and flew back. Now I have been known to drive roads where angels fear to tread … but I never felt any closer to God than on that day. Not sure why … we’d only slid off the pavement that one time. The next time I saw Glenn he’d turned in his keys.

Sometime around then … we had one of those mouthwash conversations about whether or not to go on the ventilator. He hadn’t made a decision yet … just saying he would need to at some point … like it was no big deal. Then his daughter Rebecca became part of the equation. I was living in Seattle by then and got busy with family and career. Don’t you hate being a grownup? The next time I saw Glenn, Rebecca was talking … Glenn was not … and he was on the ventilator. His mom, Bev, and I had a conversation about the making of the decision. I was only half listening and taking what I did hear with a grain of salt. It seems like she might have been saying she talked him into going onto the ventilator. But Glenn didn’t do things just because mommy told him to. What I kept hearing in my mind was Glenn’s advice to me about going for it. “Sometimes Harry you just gotta go for it”. He’d gone for the ventilator.

During the last several weeks, Glenn was often a topic of conversation among folks knew him. As a matter of fact, many of my friends who didn’t know Glenn are probably really tired of hearing about him. But among those of us who knew him, Glenn stories can be very comforting. One topic that comes up more often than it probably should in comparison to the rest of Glenn’s amazing life … is the ventilator decision. A subtopic to “The Big Decision” is often, “quality of life”.
Glenn understood quality of life. Glenn lived to be 53 years old and the ventilator stage of his life accounted for roughly 35 percent of that. But make no mistake, Glenn found quality of life. What Glenn understood was that quality of life isn’t in your arms and legs, hands and feet, fingers and toes. It’s not in your health at all. If it was … my life would have been blow out of the water on the day I was born. Part of the answer is to fill your days with things you enjoy doing. After the big decision … Glenn’s life couldn’t be filled with all the things he’d done before, but he could still fill it with stuff he enjoyed.
He filled his days with football games and sports of all kinds, westerns, old movies, and even soap operas … all on a big screen TV. I gotta admit, at first I didn’t get the soap opera thing … till I figured out he watched the soap operas … with his nurses. Glenn was good to the women in his life. Yes there were still plenty of good looking women in his life. Glenn had a whole harem of nurses, and of course his lovely wife Corrinne, all waiting on him hand and foot.

But the thing that really determines the quality of your life, in so many ways, and on so many levels, is your attitude and Glenn always had a good positive attitude.

The way I see it …. life experience does not determine attitude, your attitude determines your life.

King of the Ward – The Book

August 26, 2011

You read them here first folks. King of the Ward and Another First Night along with some new pieces will soon be available on Amazon.Com. There will be traditional books, Ebooks, and maybe Audiobooks. Here’s a description.

Kind of the Ward is a collection of short stories taking place when the author (that would be me) was a patient in the Shriners Hospital For Children in the 1950’s and 60’s, an experience which few can claim firsthand knowledge. A while back I shared the title chapter with a fellow writer who was expecting a chronological account of a childhood battle with medical conditions and procedures. His first comment was. “You were just kids being kids”! Exactly right. We didn’t all come in to the world with the standard ten fingers and toes, and some of us had orthopedic conditions from polio, spina bifida, burn cases too. But we were kids, not victims. During that time patients would have an average three or four month stay for each surgery so we had plenty of time to be kids. As it turns out, kids will be kids.

Christ I’m Chuck

June 27, 2011

Hey Chuck,

Got the call from Cousin Dave telling me you weren’t coming back from your fishing trip. First thing I did was go to your Facebook page … wanted to see your picture. I’m getting a lot of comfort out of your last post …. “Gone Fishin’”. One of your Facebook profile pictures is of you and your dad … back in the 1980’s from the look of your dad’s hair perm. Looks like Alaska and you two had obviously Gone Fishin’.

There’s another recent picture post I’m liking … it’s your Dad baptizing you in the Lewis River. Your dad was of course a fisherman and also a “fisher of men” in the biblical sense. I can relate … so was mine. You and I and our dads were never hung up on a lot of that scripture thumping judgment and salvation stuff, but there’s something there inside as well as outside of us and this life, it’s big, it’s good … and we’re all somehow part of it.

You and I did some running around back in the day and I’ve got a lot of good memories. That road trip to Idaho … that studio apartment you had with the shared bathroom down the hall. I remember dropping in on you once when you were babysitting over on Halsey St. The babies had been bouncing off the walls for a while and tensions were rising till I asked you … “know where I can get a good deal on a vasectomy”? We had a good laugh, there was a shift in the experience, and all was right with the world again … as the babies continued to bounce. You always were a “life is good” kinda guy.

Ever notice the “life is good” folks seem to do better than the “life sucks” people? The “life sucks” people will tell you life experience determines the attitude, but it seems the other way around to me. It’s hard to be a “life is good” person right now.

It’s easier … when I remember things like Chuck the musician and poet. Who can forget when you and one of your bands took on a misguided church campground policy about underwear with your song “ I got the boxer blues”? You introduced me to The Blues Brothers, Muddy Waters, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, and of course Doctor Demento and the song “Boobs a lot”.

It’s easier when I remember a recent band of yours had three members, Chuck, Tim, and Chris. Reorder the names to Chris Tim Chuck, change the punctuation spacing capitals … and you guys came up with the name “Christ I’m Chuck”. You always had a way with words.

It’s easier when I think about you and a couple of the guys roasting a whole pig for 4th on the farm. The Blue Oyster Cult concert we went to. Cruizin’ Friday nights and telling the cops on Sandy Boulevard looking for car prowlers “they just rode off on a white horse”!

It’s easier when I see Facebook pictures with you and family enjoying each other. You and Deb back in college. You with your arm around Deb, Charlie, Sam, Christian, or the “foreign chicks”. Family pictures of music, sports, Halloween, Christmas, camping and fishing. This life was good to you in so many ways.

It’s easier because I know your birth family. It musta been a great family to grow up in. I’ve spent lots of time over the years with your siblings … a road trip with Karl, another with your sister Deb, and hanging out with the gang at Janice’s apartment. Later Jan married Keith and they bought a house not far from the apartment. Deb lived there for a while, you too I think. There seemed to be an open door policy … and I enjoyed it. Your family is like you, genuinely good decent people who enjoy life. My parents and yours became good friends in Alaska. Even did occasional sleepovers. Who’da thunk. I’ll say it again … This life was good to you in so many ways.

And you gave back. I remember back in the day you were always up for verbal debate. It was no surprise when I heard you were in law school. It was also no surprise to hear that as an attorney your clients tended to be the underdog. They were clients without much money who needed help and along comes Chuck. The crusade evolved and you became a judge. You helped a lot of people. A Facebook post called you an activist and advocate. I wasn’t sure exactly what was being referred to, but it sure fit. Chuck saving the world … Chuck pulling folks to safety … issue by issue … person by person. Chuck in many ways … a fisher of men.

Now you’re taking on whatever comes next. We grew up listening to people speaking with great authority, who called what comes next … heaven. I can’t explain why I believe something comes next but I do. Mostly I use elements of the heaven story to picture what comes next … minus the harps, wings, white robes, and clouds. I’m thinking right now for you it is like the first day or two of summer camp, college, or a new job … introductions and orientation. Ok you’re there … been there a day or two, I’m imagining you having scoped things out a bit. You look around and spot Jesus for the first time. You walk right up to him, stick out your hand and say “Christ … … … I’m Chuck”.

Keep in touch … Chuck … Keep in touch.

Invoking the Blessing of Deity

June 3, 2011

Masons teach that no one should enter upon any important undertaking without first invoking the blessing of Deity. This was nothing new for me, I’d been taught that as a child and I am on a first name basis with old man Deity. As retirement approached I and made arraignments for a sacrament my birth religion calls “The Laying on of Hands.” A couple drops of consecrated Olive oil is used … which has symbolic and emblematic significance. This is a much more formal approach my usual mighty prayer while flying down the Interstate with the radio blasting away.

The Laying on of Hands will be happening in the near future. The following is an email I sent to the lumberjack friend of mine who is gonna lay hands on me.

Hey Harold

I feel “moved” to tell you from my perspective, what us two getting together with the olive oil is all about. Usually this kind of thing is to ask for a healing, blessing, guidance, or a bestowal of some kind.

I have never felt more whole in my life, I do not need a healing.

I have never felt more blessed in my life, I see more than ever, the blessings that have been coming my way all along. I am thankful, grateful, and the blessings just keep coming.

I have never felt more directed in my life. My guiding force has been there all along, I have chosen time and time again to look inside and listen to that guidance when the world we live in was giving me all kinds of misguided advice. I have direction and am aware of the path ahead.

Bestowal … I was going to say I am in no need of a bestowal … and I am not in need of one. That being said … the bestowal issue is more complex. Gate keepers come to mind again. Only this time it’s not the gates to the abundant kingdom of retirement. Maybe the bestowal issue needs the blessing of wholeness and guidance from within.

But mostly, I was looking at the next phase of this life. My patriarchal blessing comes to mind, not the content so much, but the fact that it was at another time when my life situation was changing. I was out on my own for the first time and dealing with decisions and issues I’d never had to deal with before. Career, finances, relationships, and they were all tangled up together in ways I didn’t foresee for some reason.

Looking back over this I am sending mixed messages. I guess that’s because while I do feel really pumped about where I am and where I’m headed, not everything is totally clear and I want to go to, acknowledge, praise, and thank, my guiding force in a specific, significant, and powerful way.

Hope this email clears up……. hmm … maybe that’s what I need … clarity.

No hurry … it’ll happen … time and space are just an illusion. Don’t forget the constipated olive oil … extra virgin would be a nice touch.

Harry

A word from our sponsers

May 8, 2011

Reiki –

In addition to being some guy named Harry … I am now a 2nd degree Reiki practitioner. I do “distance” Reiki and plan to set up a website this summer. Let me know if you need some good vibrations. I’ll do another post about Reiki but thought I’d give you all a chance to comment and ask questions first. It’s better if a writer knows his audience. We’ll talk later.