Wednesday, July 28, 2010

again, distraction

It's 12:15 or 12:45. The one thing that's been forgotten over time, though little else. I'm asleep on the couch when I'm shaken awake. If that was 4 hours it sure didn't feel like it. I awake to my father. "I think she is gone, but with my allergies, I can't tell." I'm summoned to perform one more feat for my mother: Declare her death. I go to her room and pull on the stethoscope. For the first time ever, I hear nothing through it as I move the chest piece around. Silence. Dead silence.

Phone calls are made. My brother is told of mom's final departure. The place where my mother's remains would go comes with a hearse at 4:30. The stretcher won't fit down the turn in the hall, so five of us must wrap her body and carry her to the stretcher. It's 5:30 by the time her body is being rushed off to some university some place to be poked and prodded and studied before being returned to us as ashes in a jar.

It's that time of the year again. It started earlier this year for reasons I'm only beginning now to understand. On Sunday I met with a friend in his 50s who expects to be listed in the obits later this week as the surviving son of his mother. In talking with him, my mother's coming anniversary started coming sooner. Usually I'm distracted on the 29th, the 30th, the 31st and occasionally into August 1st. This process will be repeated on August 7th. But this year - it came early.

In quiet moments at work and even in moments of a ton to do, my mind is in a house in Fremont 7 years ago. My mind is drawn to that memory, and others just like it - where I failed to save and protect my mother. Despite three years of wonderful psycho therapy, I come back to being a lonely 13 year-old boy unable to stop his mother from attempting suicide; a powerless 17 year-old unable to convince people to buy Avon on a cold met Saturday in April; a 20 year-old who needed to go on a mission despite her desire to deal with the separation by more suicide attempts; then lastly a weak 24 year-old - unable to stop the cancer or ease her pain. In the end, it was I who got to say and confirm "Mother is dead." One more time I couldn't stop her from succumbing to the ills that fought against her. One more time, I failed my mother. And I can't change it.

I try in these days to focus on the positive. With her no longer needing my feeble attempts to care for her, I have been able to go to college, graduate from BYUI, start a wheelchair sports program at BYUI, become a vital member of a power wheelchair soccer team, help hundreds of children adapt to their disabilities and assist a few hundred adults learn to over come their disabilities. But still, for this week every year my thoughts come back to this time 7 years ago and I get distracted. I was distracted in the temple last night, unable to focus on the prayers or the blessings. Tonight Amy came by to bring comfort and as I made out with her and then cuddled with her I found - despite usually being in a euphoric state of stressless ease - I found myself going back to a time in my life when my mother died, and I declared it.

 On Monday I subconsciously bought a lego set. Something I've always done while I'm depressed. Since Monday, I've already bought another. My fast food intake is on the rise again as well (I'll start training for my charity ride in August). 
Thursday will be a day of work. I took Friday off (Kathryn and I are going hiking). But it won't matter where I'm at or what I'm doing - I know from experience that my mind will be some where else - in a quiet room with me desperately wanting to find a pulse or a heart beat and at the same time wishing to fail my mother no more. 

Monday, July 12, 2010

To do a PAD or Not to do a PAD

(There is a house that I pass by every time I take Lola for a walk. It is a gorgeous house)

About 2 weeks ago a friend was lamenting about how I no longer do photo a day. I did 1000 pictures straight and figured that was enough. More than anything, I found the restrictions of photo a day to be limiting and taking away from quality. Simply put - I had a bunch of crappy daily shots. So I stopped. This friend lamented the fact that, while yes there were occasionally crappy shots, there were also really great ones - that the great ones made up for the crappy ones. So she requested I start again. 
I have started again, but now I have found a new problem: time. Monday is FHE, Tuesday is laundry and cleaning; Wednesday is volleyball/game night; Thursday is farmers market night, Friday is swing night; Saturday is activity day and Sunday is church stuff. I don't seem to have the time to post any more. So updating will be hard. but I guess I'll start again until enough people agree that enough is enough.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

you're in my spot

I came home tonight to find this parked on the street where I normally park. I think it just parking there brought the property value of the house way up.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

wedding times

I went to a wedding tonight. I knew neither the bride nor the groom. My roommate wanted to go. The wedding was in Sacramento. My roommates has no car. So I went with him. At the wedding they had little M&Ms with their faces on them and little messages. It made me want to run and hide. Thankfully, I brought along my film camera and was able to take random shots of people. Oh, and at some point my roommate caught the garter.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Posts away!

This was the first picture I was going to post today, but alas, something more "life surrounding" came along.
This may not seem like much, but it very much a huge success. At Amy's house there is a side of their house that has been missing a fence for some time. After successful completion of the bumble bee ramp last January, Amy's parents were excited when Amy and I started talking about fixing the ramp. But then El Nino hit. And it rained and it rained and it rained. Then I was sick, I was sick, I was sick. So FINALLY today we see the posts being concreted in. Furthermore, I convinced Amy's parents that if they really loved me, they would buy a pre-fabricated fence. So I'm going to install a pre-fab fence on Tuesday. I'm so excited this project is finally coming to a close.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The grove of eucalyptus

Tonight Amy felt well enough to join Lola on our adventure. I took her to another park to go running. There were two other dogs there so I eventually took Lola over to a ballpark and ran her around in the outfield while Amy watched from her chair. Amy's back sprain means she she couldn't play with us, but she watched as a little dog had way more energy than a full grown adult.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

the day after

Last night on her way home from work, my best friend Amy has a left side rear blow out. She was going about 60 MPH when the blow out happened. She fishtailed left then right then left then right one final time before coming to rest is a grove of small trees and bushes. Today in the day light I took a few shots. The back bumper is gone, as is the back window. Amy, thankfully, is rather okay. She strained her back and is off work for a few days, but I have seen similar situations go much worse. By all guesses - the car is totaled, but we'll find out later. If it is totaled, there is one silver lining - what ever junk yard gets this car is going to be rather happy. The engine is in great shape and will fetch a pretty penny.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Lessons from owning a dog

I have a co-worker who needed someone to watch her daughter and son-in-law's dog until the 1st of October. I volunteered. So for a week now, a dog has been living with us that is my sole responsibility. It has been a very educational experience. First lesson I learned was that no matter what time you get in at night or how few number of hours of sleep you get, there is a dog that expects to go pee every morning at 7 AM. So no matter if you get home at three, or if you have tonsillitis (like I did for the past several days), the dog expects to be let out to pee at 7 AM. Second thing I learned is - a dog will always have more energy than me. I took her out running today. Running!! I haven't ran since Fall Semester 2006. We ran/walked/jogged for an hour. Eventually, Lola decided she was done and crawled back into her crate. We went home, me satisfied that I had wore her out. 30 minutes later I'm napping in my lazy boy when Lola comes and jumps up on my lap with the energy of a teen boy on three Red Bulls. Always more energy. The last thing I'm learning is it does not matter how much you feed her prior to dinner, what ever you are serving is so much better and she will beg from the floor next to you. She seems to love her dog food, but not when you are having anything (pringles, pasta, slop).
Oh, and I learned one other thing. When dogs are in heat they bleed a little and so to keep her female parts clean, Lola is constantly licking herself down there. First though...eewwww!. Second thought, I'm so glad that the cave people didn't take after the dogs when they were developing in evolution. I would never kiss another girl if I knew she was lickin her self down there.

Monday, June 14, 2010

looking down on ant people.

Contra Costa County

My new office is 5 stories higher than my old office. Each day there are people standing at the huge window in the break room marveling at the sight. For two weeks I've tried to avoid looking. Today I ventured a gander - and it was just as I had assumed - a long ways down.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Portrait Project Part 1

For about 2 months now I've been working on using my dad's camera to teach me about shooting portraits in black and white using film. Tonight I picked up the last roll of scanned film and these are the pictures. I learned a lot in the process. It started with the picture above. I was asked to do a photo shoot for a customer's Linked account. We took about 100 pictures. With digital that's okay, but film is bloody expensive, so I really wanted to learn how to shoot portraits without shooting so much. I made an announcement on Facebook and got three victims er...I mean volunteers.
Dave was the first volunteer.
This is probably my favorite from the initial shoot.
With David I tried to take a lot of different poses. I was trying to figure out how to pose a subject.
Next was Toni:
This is my favorite from the shoot.
This is Toni intimidating Dave.
Toni wanted to add a prop, which I forgot added more shadows to be weary of.
This is the one time that shadows made me happy. It looks like she has a necklace from her earrings.
Next was Steven. I shot pictures of him with the much prodding from Toni.
When I got this film developed I quickly saw the importance of lighting and using it for me benefit and not against me. Tomorrow I will show other shots and talk a little more about what I learned.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Baking is a sign of happiness

A few weeks ago I severed a deal with one of my roommates. When I first moved in, she was unemployed and I had a 55 minute commute, so I struck a deal. I would buy the food, she would cook it and we would eat together. Since then, she has gotten a job and my commute has gotten smaller. So last week I took back over the reins of cooking. Doing this means more than me that being able to have Mexican again or to be able to have pasta (two things Kristin can't cook). More than anything, my desire to cook or to bake is a sign to me - I'm happy again.

My first semester at BYUI I often didn't eat or only cooked small dishes for myself. Half way through my second semester I was diagnosed with delayed grieving syndrome. I dropped out of school and ran away to Oregon. Once I returned to school 6 months later I was still sad. I missed my mom (who had died 18 months prior) and I missed my ex-fiance (who had left me 7 months prior). I suffered through that first semester, forcing myself to use up the meal plan my father had purchased for me, and never baking or cooking. Over time I started to feel better. I joined an activities program that helped me feel loved and included and challenged me to do good for others - and activity I love and crave. Then one day during summer 2006 I decided to start baking for people in my ward. I started making bread from a box. I would find people in my ward that were stressed or unhappy and I would make them blue berry bread or cinnamon strudel bread. Then I started getting creative and would make instant cheese cake, from a box. Or I would make no bake cookies with extra sugar. I made family recipes. I made and I baked and I cooked and I was happy.

After graduation in 2007, I started to feel less happy. I was no longer needed in ways I was needed at BYUI. I couldn't find a group of friends to belong to. I struggled with housing situations. And I stopped baking. Sure I would make a cheese cake on occasion, when someone requested it, but for the most part - I didn't bake. During the spring of 2009, I became close with my friend Shell and I started to be happy again, so I started to bake again. Mainly cheese cakes, but I did begin to experiment with those cheese cakes - going from a pie crust to a spring form pan then to creating my own crusts and creations.  However, this was short lived as summer came and Shell moved away. When she would return, something was missing in our friendship. I never really felt like I belonged in the group we hung out with, again. And I stopped baking.

In January I moved into a new house, a new ward and a new town. I'm actually in a new county. And something began to happen. I found myself being happy. I hum more. I interact with my roommates now. I actually play games with them. And it's not just the home life. I had enough happiness to have courage to find a better job; to be more social at church; to make commitments at the house. And then I started baking. And now I'm baking every week. This week alone will be cheesecake, strawberry pie (for the roommates) and raspberry pie (for work). Last week as I baked - I danced around the kitchen listening to my new iTouch and adding ingredients. I experimented with different portions and sought the collective criticism of those who tasted. And all the while I smiled. For today I'm happy. I know because I'm baking.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Commentary for TAL - Home movies

(For some reason, I was not at all shocked to find him near the hospital and being so friendly with me. He was probably digging for pills to take home)

In what I hope will be a series, I would like to take a little time each week and comment on how "This American Life" has inspired me or sparked a thought in me. This weeks broadcast was about home movies. During the prologue prior to the first of five (!) acts, Alan Berliner talked about his research into home movies. He spent six years researching home movies and saw over half a million home movies in that time. He noticed some common themes. The one that stood out to me the most was that we film children from age negative to age 12, and then we don't film them again till their wedding. Puberty is a time for putting away the video camera. 

I found this interesting because I used to share a video camera with my brother. It was big, and bulky and attached to a VCR that had to be carried around with it. The battery life was just under an hour and so any serious taping required being near a power outlet. The Camera was a gift from my grandfather, on my dad's side. Somewhere, lost in a box, are hours of video of us grandchildren being cute and being filmed. Despite stories I've heard about my grandparents not liking being around small children, I look back and have fond memories of being taped.

This video camera I shared with my brother has one distinct memory tied into it. When I was twelve, I was really good friends with a kid named Ryan. On Ryan's screened in back porch we used to put on little shows. Once we got the camera, we filmed all of our shows. Much like the people in Act II of this weeks episode (podcast), we became some what popular. All of Ryan's siblings wanted to get in on the action. We even filmed the dog, Daisy, in several movies. There were of course many ninja scenes where Ryan directed and starred in the fighting, always beating out his younger brother, David. I stood by and filmed, where occasionally you can hear me in the distance calling out shots. 

This story doesn't end when we were 13, though. What we did with that camera started something that would turn amazing. While I went off and did sports and tech theatre, Ryan stuck with film. He went to film school and recently co-directed and wrote a documentary for the History Channel. I am always impressed with where things start.

My other comment for this week's episode would be during the fifth act. The fifth act contains David Sedaris. I used to really love his comedy, but now I don't. The nice thing about this piece was that it didn't end in comedy. It ended in a way that was so close to home, I could see myself doing the same thing. If you only listen to one part of the episode this week - listen to that piece (and ignore all of David's swearing.)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The hospital experience

(I saw this yesterday and was so glad it was still there today, despite the May showers. I'm not sure what it is called, but I'm sure I want to plant some.)

My job consists of two locations or two types of locations. Most days I am out patient. I work with patients on a very clerical level. I schedule appointments, I get ice, I remove ice, I apply electric stem, I remove electric stem, I ultrasound, I clean the ultrasound equipment, I schedule for appointments, I bill insurance companies, I put on heat packs, I remove heat packs, I blow up balls, I change the sheets and pillow cases. 50% of my job is spent in a chair at a computer and 50% is spent running errands.

One to two days a week, I work inpatient. There are 5 levels to the hospital. I see the third, fourth and fifth floor at least twice an hour. The elevators are super slow so everyone (and it is expected of me) takes the stairs. Equipment moves between floors, often at my hand. I am responsible for stocking the Draco shoes, the Wedge shoes, the walkers, the canes, the four prong canes, and other supplies (gait belts, towels, pillow cases, and other stuff). I have separate locations scattered through out the hospital where stuff gets stored. Additionally, I'm responsible for answering assistance pages. Today I assisted an old man out of his bed into a surgery chair so he could practice sitting up. I also helped a 350 pound women sit up in bed. (she actually stopped breathing during the experience and a nurse came in and had to bag her to get her breathing again.) I helped another man in and out of a whirlpool. (oh did I mention that I'm responsible for the whirlpool as well. It takes 15 minutes to set up, 20 to 30 minutes per patient and then 45 minutes to clean.) Through the course of just today, I held onto the poo bag in my left hand while holding the urine bag in the other hand; I listened to a man tell me how great the meatballs were at lunch only to see clumps of something gray seep out of his stomach into a colonoscopy bag; I watched a man stumble from his wheelchair to a lift with blood particles dripping from his butt onto the floor below him (which I got to wipe up and some poorly paid janitor got to sanitize later). I'm so glad that I worked with little kids and their vomit for the last 2 1/2 years. My gag reflex isn't as active as it used to be. 

That all said, there are positives. First off, I have to wash my hands about every 10 minutes when I'm in the hospital. My hands have never been cleaner in my life. Secondly, unlike my last job where it was first last and always - clorox bleach is rarely used. Nearly all of the hospital uses this red topped thing that has sani wipes in it. We used these for the first 14 months of my last job before switching to bleach. At my new job I don't go home smelling like bleach nor do my clothes get ruined. Thirdly, Because of all of the time I spend not sitting down (I walk between 5-10 miles a day, half of which is taking stairs), I have lost 5 pounds since I started 2 1/2 weeks ago. Because every floor looks the same, I'm still getting lost in the hospital. (More than once I've ended up in the nursery where they get real nervous with random people wondering around.) Because of the lostness, I'm meeting a lot of interesting people and seeing things I haven't seen before. 

In summary - some days I really hate being in the hospital and other days I love it. Rumor has it, it might be my permanent home. If so, some days will be filled with me praying for a opening at my last job.

Because today was rather stressful, I came home and made pies. If you live in the area, swing on by for some experimental berry pie.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Easy Flower

(I loved this type of flower in high school, because it was really easy to identify the male and female parts. I nicknamed this flower "The Easy Flower.")

Today I trained the new person. I've been on the job for 2 weeks and a day. It was rather self satisfying to know I've shown enough competence that I could train the new person on some stuff. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

The voice of my God, and the things He chooses to tell me

(A grove near my office that in theory I could come read my book during my lunch)

On Sunday I met with my bishop and had a rather strange experience happen. He ended my church discipline and restored my priesthood. For the first time since February 2007, on Sunday I can take the sacrament. I'm humbled by this course change in my life. For the first time in a long time, I have felt deeply loved by my Heavenly Father. The words I have sought for from my Heavenly Father were delivered in my Bishops voice. No one could know that those were the words I was praying for because I rarely pray out loud.  Usually, my time talking to God is done as I drive my truck to or from work. But as I sat in my bishop's Fairfield, the words I have pleaded for came to me. Then the words I hadn't quite asked for came to me. We discussed my on again off again relationship with Amy. He asked why we broke up this time and I told him it came down to her desire to remain a free spirit and be spontaneous and my craving for structure including planned activities and planned dates. The next words out of my bishop's mouth were "Opposites attract." He mentioned that he is a planner and his wife is not. He said that it was something that he and her just had to get over. So all day long today that's been on my mind. Do opposites really attract? 
In a recent post I talked about the qualities of girlfriend's past. Today involved more thinking about past girlfriends. I wonder if maybe I'm doing this dating thing wrong. I wonder if my approach to Amy was founded wrong. I wonder if I am looking for "the perfect girl" and ignoring that there are some near perfect girls out there. I thought I had perfection with KNJ, and yet, now, 6 years later, I can't think of anyone else I'd rather not be married to as what she does with her life now.  I look at Mahon and Cindy (99% of my understanding of them is through the internet so I may not see the whole picture) and they seem "perfect" for each other. I never get the feeling that they were opposites that chose to forgo a quality they wanted in a spouse. I look at my own parents. My father was catholic and my mother was Mormon. She was a nurse and my father faints at the sight of vomit. My father was in into technology and my mother still sent snail mail letters up to the month she died. Yet for 32 years they made and amazing life together full of trips, vacations, children, struggles and joys. In just the last 10 years of her life, my mother had over 20 surgeries and she came to from those surgeries with a man who helped build ramps so she could get in and out of the house; he set up her flowers on sprinkler systems so that her flowers would get watered while she was in the hospital. Did their opposites attract and create this life? Should I be looking for an opposite? Or should I be looking for for the girl I think would be perfect for me? 

Today was a day of pondering. Thank goodness I have my new iTouch to listen to. As I strolled through the grove tonight on my way out to my truck, I pondered and listen to Hilary play this song.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The first few days and an accomplishment

On Monday morning I slept in, for a Monday, before driving to my new job. The drive down was 30 minutes shorter than my previous commute which is a shame because that would be the last time I was sitting down that long for the rest of the day.

In the past 48 hours I have learned 5 software programs, met 30 to 40 people a day, learned to work with 8 physical therapists at a time, eaten cafeteria food, swore off ever eating cafeteria food again, learned 20 different policy's and learned how to park without getting towed or sited. However, none of those accomplishments compare to what I did on lunch today.

We get hour long lunches, just like my old job. And just like my old job, I can eat my food in 15 minutes. Usually I slept during the other time, but I have yet to find a quiet place to nap. So today I went on a walk. First I will show you the flowers from the walk.
However, the greatest joy came when I took the next two pictures.  

Do you see her? There, in the shadow. Let's zoom in closer:
I tried for 2 1/2 years on Photo a Day to catch a picture of a deer. Every time I went to take the shot, my camera would malfunction, or I'd get a picture of its butt. Or something. Today I got a picture of a deer looking right at me, eating grass just a block west of my new office. I was so happy I texted those I could and bragged, before returning to the freight train known as my new job.

Monday, May 3, 2010


I'm late.

Instruction started at 8, but I get there just shy of 8:45. The instruction is wrapping up.

I ask one girl, but get turned down flatly. I ask another, but she is there with her boyfriend. I ask a third, whose lesbian lover comes to her rescue. It is harder this week. I'm here on my own without Dave to try to get me girls and I can see I'm out of my element.

I retreat to the corner and practice by myself. Step. Step. Rock step. Step. Step. Rock Step. Eventually a girl takes pity (or is just curious about this boy in the corner mumbling to himself "Step. Step. Rock Step."). I explain to her that it is just my second week. She's okay with that and teaches me three new moves. But just as soon as her blond head and bright smile has put me at ease, her soft 20 year-old body is gone.

Back to the corner I go to practice what I have been taught - looking even more foolish doing turns and twists by my self. A 75 year-old comes over and asks me to take her out on the floor. I again admit, it's only my second week. I think in my head of all of my accomplishments: Navigating the Kaiser bureaucracy, starting a wheelchair basketball program, not bouncing a check for 3 years, taking some amazing pictures of sunsets and pretty faces. Yet as the music starts, I'm reminded of one big area I'm lacking in. I keep to the same basic steps I've been practicing in the shower and in my room at home. I'm too unsure of myself to try the moves that the beautiful 20 year-old just taught me.

The night continues with a 60 year-old woman who tries to teach me the Chicago (which was lost on me). I learn from an 18 year-old and return to that beautiful 20 year-old a few times to get instructed more. Every time a partner is approached or approaches me - each time I must admit my lacking. I must report my inability to do what comes naturally to them. I step on toes, and apologize profusely. I look to girls over a decade younger than me to teach me to lead, to teach me to overcome my inabilities.

Eventually Dave and Jill show up and I have a clique of friends to feel safe in. Jill and I share several dances, watching me not be able to dances. It is not the Swing of my grandparent's generation, unless my grandparents were clutzs.

Too Soon the night is over. I have only learned a few moves and feel so far behind. I can see faces of different females: Linda, Krysta, Sylvia, Grace, Karen, Mary Anne, Michelle, Katie, Sarah and my deer friend Jill. Some of them have made an impression to the point that they will probably never leave my mind. The woman who worked with netal natal infants. The girl who hadn't been in a year yet still showed me how little I knew. The woman who is a history teacher and smiles as bright as the sun as she lets me lead her around the floor. All of them come to mind as I am reminded of the humbling evening - the night that reminds me - I still have a lot to learn and am thankful I'm humble enough to learn it from those several years younger than me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Just leave the lid open so I can watch

(The Chicken has nothing to do with this post except to say my day began with finding it on the front lawn as I was walking out the door this morning)

All day long today, I felt like I was attending my own funeral. Today was my last day at the Oakley job site, a place I have called home for nearly two and a half years. Yesterday I cleaned out my desk. Today I finished writing the booklet on how to do my job (I swear I missed my calling being a technical writer) and finished cleaning out the pantry with my stuff in it. I met two of the applicants that are applying for my job. I locked the doors for the last time. I cleaned those toys for the last time. I saw certain clients and got hugs from them for that last time. I held back tears as I got tender hugs from those little children.

But the funeral part came as through out the day a stream of people would make quick stops into my office. Each would comment on how I was a big part of the building, how I had a good heart, and how much they were going to miss me. I was hugged by more people today than in at least a year. I'm not a huggy guy (except with Amy), but today I was hugged over and over again. And all I could do was hold back tears.

Earlier today I shut down my PO Box and turned in my change of address form with the USPS.

At 5 o'clock I locked up the building one last time. I put a freshly printed "How to be a Therapy Aide" booklet on what was no longer my desk. I locked the cabinets, locked the office, turned out the lights, and left. And tonight, as I prepare for the final funeral tomorrow, I hold close to my heart the words of my building family and hum a little song in my head.