Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Look what showed up.

7/29/08 Tuesday
It’s gonna be a hundred plus degree day. Cherie is working a full 8 to 5 day so got up early to get ready. This helps me get out to the farm/garden early too so that works out well to beat the heat. There is so much to do, there always is.
7/30/08 Wednesday
The weather yesterday was nice and cool till about 1:30. I had come in to rest at noon and after a one hour nap went back out. Boy! What a difference an hour and half make. I kept at it and think I got a lot done though I don’t remember what. I did pick up the trailer from Chuck and Lillian but have yet to fill it with the limbs and debris I cut from the mulberry tree this spring. Later I intend to get some more horse manure from…those folks we met who’s name I can’t remember at the moment. The manure we got before has been composting aggressively. It was running at 160 degrees but has dropped down to 150 or so. It will greatly enhance our soil next year.

What else? Oh, I heard through the grapevine that my cousin Daryl’s sister died. I don’t know if it was from a long illness or sudden because there is no communication from that quarter but that doesn’t matter. I understand well the pain that comes from a relative dying so our hearts go out to him. I made it a point to buy a card for them yesterday and will get it in the mail today.

The other thing that happened yesterday is this dog showed up. I suspect someone dropped her off. She has recently had a litter but there are no signs of the puppies. There is no question that Gretchen (We already named her) has been severely abused. She cowers at every move. It breaks my heart to see this. It also makes me mad and I want to find who did it and beat them for a while to see how they like it. But that’s the old me and that part is gone now, I put it away. Both of us love animals so are reaching out to her. We were going to make posters to see if we could find the owners but after seeing how she has been treated have no interest in returning her to that situation. Gretchen has been well fed so has not been out in the wild long if at all. It’s clear that she has been used to human companionship and she dearly wants to be loved, approaching with great trepidation when I call her and crouch down to be less threatening. She will lick my hand ready to run at any sign I’ll strike her, but will follow me every where I go at a distance. On occasion she will show a desire to play but that is quickly overcome by her fear. She will be strictly an outside dog.

Trixie is not at all happy about this newcomer and aggressively asserts her dominance, especially jealous when I pet Gretchen, or at least try to. She cowers to Trixie as much as she does with us. Gretchen is infested with ticks so this morning I will make a run to get something for that. We can’t really afford the gas or expense but it’s a sacrifice we are more than willing to make. Gretchen did go after the cats a couple of times but they have no problem getting away. Most of the time she’s ok with them so as long as they get along she can stay. I don’t have a clue what kind or kinds of dog Gretchen is because I’m not really up on that kind of thing.

Lots to do as always so got beat the heat and go.

By the way, I've made a couple more entries on my Whataboutbob blog on the "America's for sale" thread. Check it out.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Off to a start

7/28/08 Monday
We are off to the start of another week. The farmer’s market Saturday went well and we sold out again, though not as quick as before. There were two ladies who love blackeyed peas but were traumatized in childhood by being forced to shell them so didn’t want to get ours. One elderly couple asked if we were from Stanton and he then said he read my blog on occasion. I wonder if he has been offended by what I’ve written and just came to see who I was. But I suppose that’s the paranoia I often must fight kicking in. They bought some of the peas. We had three or four spaghetti squash as well and a couple of bags of okra too. It sure feels good to begin reaping the benefits of my hard work. Helps with the frustration I often have.

Sunday was a high pain day. I had gone out in the morning and picked beans and some okra for Ed. Maybe I picked it the night before, I don’t remember. That’s one of the strange things with the memory. I can remember an event but seem to be unable to put a time stamp on it. Ed had come to the farmer’s market and missed out on the okra. We had quite a talk on biblical doctrines connected to the Sunday school lesson that was coming up. Part of that discussion was on the messianic Jew movement and some teachings related to that. We touched on the eternal security doctrine of the Baptist church but I backed off on that, not wishing to cause any dissension. I’m careful about that regarding church doctrines though I seem to have caused a lot of problems on personal levels.

One of the first things we did this morning was cancel the website thing we had bought from Stores Online as well as severing our relationship with two of their sister companies. The $37.00 charge we had tried to stop last week came through this morning. It’s a shame this didn’t work out. It all sounded so good at the seminar but it seems that it was all designed to suck you in and start a process of milking you for all they can get. We never got the website designed. It’s something that we will need as this farm grows but that will have to wait for now.

The hundred degree days are back. I’ve been out working this morning, trying to take advantage of the coolness of the morning but it’s warming up quick now. I’ll go as long as I can. The air conditioner on Cherie’s car isn’t working now. It’s been getting weak but yesterday just blew hot air. I need to charge it up. That’s something I know how to do, kind of. I know it’s not hard and finding directions on how is easy too. I’ve done it before but like everything must relearn.

Cherie’s tooth is bothering her again. It’s a constant problem that shows up quite a bit nowadays. It gets infected all the time and that goes up into her sinuses, causing lots of pain and making her sick. One of the things we look forward to, if she finds a full time job, is getting medical benefits, though dental is a rarer part of that. We just haven’t had the cash to get the work done and it seems that dentists won’t look at you unless you have the cash up front. Debbie at church gave us a lead for dental help for folks like us who are poor.

It’s kind of strange to use the term “poor” for yourself. At least for me it is. I don’t know why, I’ve been poor many times in my life, but I’ve been affluent too. I touched on that when talking to Ed at the farmer’s market. It was a response to his comment about folks who are enamored with possessions. I told him how my outlook on life was drastically changed by the accident. “When you go from owning two companies with one hundred and twenty seven employees to being homeless and carrying all your worldly possessions in a garbage bag you learn what is important. I have a roof over my head, food, and clothing. With that I am content”. He said I should be giving my testimony and the fact is I would love to. I’m not excited to talk about my perseverance or anything that I do because I’m not impressed with myself at all. I know too many others who deal with problems that make mine look silly to brag on myself. But telling of what God has done in our lives is different. That I’ll do anytime, for giving God glory is a good thing.

What a paradox I am, I struggle to “know” that there is a God yet it is my great hope and goal in life to live in a way that pleases God. Hebrews, chapter eleven says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” My problem is that I can’t see God, can’t touch or feel Him so I don’t know as a certainty that He is yet it is my hope. So based on that hope I act. I suppose that is what Hebrews is talking about. I don’t know that either. It is my daily prayer, to have that assurance, to know beyond a shadow of doubt that God is. When I woke from the coma that wasn’t there. Whether the portion of the brain that had that assurance was damaged or what I don’t know. It just wasn’t there anymore. Does that make me bad? I told Ed that I was like the disciple, Thomas, who needed to put his hand in the wound on Jesus’ side to believe.

It’s hot now. I just got back from Midland where I recharged Cherie’s air conditioner in the parking lot of where she works. I suppose I should take my two o’clock nap because I sure am tired. All the animals are crashed out so I might as well join them. What a menagerie we have, five cats and two dogs. The kittens are growing fast as should be expected. We are starting to find presents on the veranda, two birds and a couple of lizards. No mice or rats yet and certainly no gophers, but the cats are still young and we bring them in at night so they don’t become coyote food.

Friday, July 25, 2008

I still wonder at what I see

7/25/08 Friday
I guess I’ve been busy seeing the only thing in my journal for Wednesday is the date and there is nothing at all for Thursday. At the moment I can remember nothing of those two days. I’ll download the pictures from the camera, if there are any, and that may help me remember.

Well, I have some great pictures of the sky. My love and appreciation of the beauty of nature that surrounds us all is unabated, and I hope always will be. It reminds me of a moment, way back in 1976. I was in prison here in Texas and was only twenty years old. This is when I became a Christian and that changed my view of the whole world to put it mildly. There is not room on these pages to tell of the turmoil and tumultuous time that put me here, perhaps I’ll cover that in the book I say I’ll write but haven’t done much on. Regardless, up to this time the world was basically just shades of grey to me and I seldom recognized or noticed the beauty that surrounded me. It was drugs, drinking, and trying to find acceptance and a joy that would last longer than the buzz from a beer that occupied my mind then. But prison changed all that. Here my mind cleared as my body cleaned itself of the drugs and alcohol the permeated every cell. I had been accepted in a program called “Operation Kick It” where we traveled to schools and civic organizations through out the state of Texas, telling our stories with the hope of keeping other kids from following the path we had taken. Some of you who are from Texas may remember the program coming to your school back in the mid seventies. If you did there is a good chance you saw me.

It was spring and we were on our way to one of the towns we would be speaking at. This was one of the first times I had been outside the walls of the prison in over a year. Inside there is not much to see, concrete walls and barred windows with a view of the next cell block and a glimpse of the double fence with razor sharp constatina wire curled in rows across the top. Now we are in the station wagon they transported us with and it is early in the morning. The sun is just coming up and there is a mist that floats like a paper thin cloud just six feet off the ground. The area has a gently rolling landscape and the road seemed to disappear into a still lake of cloud where it followed the surface down.

When we sliced through the twelve inch thick white mist it was like entering an eerie other worldly dimension with the canopy of cloud suspended over us like a sheer white cloth that was bright from being lit from above by the rising sun. There was maybe six feet between the ground and cloud and the short little mesquite trees disappeared into it as if they were giants reaching the sky. Then, as the car tore along at maybe seventy miles per hour we would raise up through the mist to an equally eerie vision. Here is a snow white, smooth surface with the tops of the mesquites and cactus coming through as if floating unsupported. We were on an island in the midst of this with other islands visible where the surface of the ground rose above the mist.

We traveled through this phenomenon, going above and below the mist like a submarine, for maybe half an hour before it vanished, but I marveled at the beauty the whole time. For the rest of the journey I took in how green the color green was as if I had never seen the color before. I saw with wonder the plants, flowers, and other things and marveled at what God had made.

That was back when I was born again and when I woke from the coma eight years ago it was a similar experience. This time it was a little different. With much of my memory gone and my mind severely damaged I was pretty much like a child again. Everything was new to me. I can remember watching the ants, honey bees, and insects with fascination, perhaps for hours at a time. This wasn’t a one time epiphany like what I experienced back in 1976, it is an ongoing thing. If you look back in this blog to when we first came to Texas you will see all kinds of pictures of plants and flowers and can read my childish wonder of these things most folks take for granted. In some ways I am only eight years old because of the brain injury. I have been learning ever since I woke up and will continue to as time goes by. One of the biggest problems I’ve had is that my emotions and abilities to interact with others is sometimes at an eight year olds level. Every month I get better at it and continue to grow but it sure caused problems with those who didn’t take the time or care to understand.

I’ve been picking beans. We have a lot of them, which is good because the farmer’s market is tomorrow. Picking beans is hell on my back though so I came in to take a pain pill. There will be some other things ready for the market as well. I think Cherie picked some okra and there is some spaghetti squash ready. Plus we have some of the Chinese Noodle beans that I am excited about. They are really different looking. Dark red and over a foot long. We’ll need to cook some tonight so we can tell others what they are like.

I am learning about the Charentaise melons. We picked some last week and took some to church. Unfortunately I suspect they were all overripe. Figuring out when they are ripe is an art form or developed skill just like picking ripe watermelons is. I finally picked one that was just right last night. Boy are they good. Come to find out the Charentaise are true cantaloupe unlike what we call cantaloupe here in the states. What we call cantaloupe is actually a muskmelon. The Charentaise taste similar but are maybe a bit sweeter. It’s hard for me to tell as my sense of taste was effected by the brain injury though it’s much better now. When I first got back with Cherie I would cook up a storm. The only problem was that I couldn’t taste much and would add spice till it tasted right. Then when Cherie would try some it would almost gag her because it was so strong.

There is lots to do and my back pain is down to a tolerable level so there are beans to pick.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

No shoes???

I used to complain about not having shoes, then I met someone without feet. You have to see this. It will inspire and...well just look. Click on the link below

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

TBI, no one box fits all to describe it.

Click to enlarge

Here is another account of traumatic brain injury, again intended to help others understand our issue's better. One of the points I want to make with this one is that every brain injury is different, there is no "one box fits all" way to categorize our injuries.

It's been more than two years since Dalton's Saul Raisin crashed in a professional bicycling race on April 4, 2006 and was left comatose with a traumatic brain injury at age 23.

Raisin is one of the luckier ones to have recovered from his injury, but he notices many differences in his post-crash life — some subtle, some significant. The latter keep him from returning to cycling, despite the nod of approval from doctors to do so.

"When tests are run on me, everything is normal, and physically everything is normal," Raisin said. "But mentally, I have lapses. Sometimes I'm not able to read facial expressions. I can't feel fatigue, so I don't know when I'm getting tired. That's dangerous and that's why I won't race (professionally) again."

His parents, Jim and Yvonne Raisin of Dalton, also see a difference in their son.

"Some of his bad habits are worse, and some of his good habits are better," Jim said.

"He's more affectionate," Yvonne said. "He struggles with his executive and social skills. He's very impulsive. For example, if he's hungry and someone is talking to him, in the middle of the conversation he'll go straight to where the food is, even if he's the one who started the conversation. Whatever is on his mind. But he's getting better."

While his days as a pro are over, Raisin rides his bike and also runs anywhere from 14-18 hours a week. And he still has a home in France, where he was a member of the professional cycling Team Agricole. On Sunday, his former teammate and neighbor in France, Simon Gerrans of Australia, won the 15th stage of the Tour de France.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

another day in the life of bob

7/22/08 Tuesday
1:26 – I’m in for a rest. The horse manure I mixed with the tumbleweeds and other weeds I was mowing for three days for compost is running at 160 degrees. That’s as hot as it gets and really good. After some practice I’m getting good at this. Yesterday I spent the whole day hoeing down weeds, primarily the sticker grass that we hate so much. Today, if it works out, I will rake it all up and burn it to destroy the stickers, which are seeds. I know I worked all morning but can’t remember what I did. Will probably be able to remember tomorrow. Just noticed I had the day wrong. Thought it was Monday today. That means it’s poop scoop day so I will be heading into Midland.
Maybe I overdid it. Cherie called and I saw it was 5:04 when I answered. I was thinking it was only about 3:00. Not only was I to poop scoop at Janie’s but I was going to drop by Eric’s to see if he could weld up my hoe. I even had the directions and his phone number printed up and on top of this laptop for when I left. Oh, and I was going to leave at 3:00 so was hurrying to finish what I was working on in the garden. Then I see that it’s after five. The other part, the important part of this plan was to meet Cherie when she got off work and go out to Rosa’s for their Taco Tuesday special like we have done. Nut’s, it’s after five and I’m just dragging from being out in the heat and working. Cherie could hear it in my voice so offered to do the poop scooping for me and pick something up for dinner. She got no argument from me. I came in and after washing the dishes laid down. It’s 8:00 now and I went out to get some more work done but it didn’t take long to figure out that wasn’t a good idea. I’m weak and not walking steadily so came back in. I guess I’ll have to call it a day. Don’t want to but it would be smart. I’ll try not to fall asleep this early so I can get some good sleep tonight and wake up refreshed.

Reading the first entry I see that I never did rake up the weeds. Nothing unusual there, I stayed busy but didn't do what I planned. Another day in the life of bob.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Catch up

7/21/08 Monday
Catch up time for this journal. Saturday we hit the farmer’s market and sold out in minutes again. We didn’t have as many blackeyed peas this time as last but had them packaged up in one pound lots in freezer bags. I decided to ask for $4.00 a bag after seeing how anxious folks were for them last time and they sold at that price with no questions asked. After that we headed to a veteran’s benefits event that was being held in Midland. There were lots of booths representing many organizations offering services to veterans so we visited at each one. I am looking for all the resources we can find to get this farm going. Ended up joining the VFW after they said they would pay the entry fee. There are some programs they have that may help out with getting the house fixed up. Congressman Mike Conaway was there so I got to talk with him. He decided to “open a case” for me when I explained what we would like to do and that I could use some help finding and understanding the government programs available to help. I need to take the time to write up those dreams and plans we have so his staff can help us.

Church was good as it always seems to be. The lesson in Sunday school talked about perseverance. Wally was teaching and later told me he hoped I would speak up when he asked for others personal experiences involving perseverance, telling me that as he studied the lesson he thought of what I go through. I understand that but am not good at tooting my own horn, just am not comfortable with “Hey, look at how good I am”. Fact is I am constantly frustrated with my inability to accomplish goals and suppose I do practice a lot of perseverance because I keep getting up every morning and go at it again. There have been many emails and comments on the blog from folks who tell me what an inspiration I am. I am very glad I can have this effect and it gives value to my life but I know so many who have and do overcome so much more than I ever had to that I can’t rate myself that high. One of the goals I have with this blog is to illustrate the difficulties survivors of traumatic brain injuries face so others can be more aware and understanding. To do so I bare my soul, so to speak, I speak openly of my frustrations and failures but don’t do so to impress anyone with my ability to overcome these obstacles. I really don’t think I do that good of a job of it anyway. But I don’t quit so I suppose that’s good.

By the way folks, I’ve started writing in my What about Bob blog some now that we can go online any time we need to, so check it out. What I say may not set well with some but that’s the way it is.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

More TBI info

In my continuing quest to gain recognition and understanding of TBI here is another illustration of problems survivors of Traumatic brain injuries have. This is pretty similar to the issues I have had. One thing I'd like to call your attention to is the part where J.B. would start odd and intrusive conversations that people would have a hard time escaping from. There is something many of us survivors exude that makes others uncomfortable. It's often hard to put your finger on it but you sense that something is "just not right" about the individual. I'm quite sure that I have had this effect on others who haven't taken the time to know me or understand. It leads to folks distancing themselves, which I don't mind nearly as much as the judgment and gossip we experienced in some quarters. How precious is the love and understanding we found at First Baptist Church in Midland after experiencing something much different at another place.

J.B., a 38-year-old male, had a high school diploma and an associate of arts degree in social sciences from a community college. He presented with moderate cognitive impairments at one month post-TBI sustained in an auto accident. He was discharged from sub-acute rehabilitation with a referral to outpatient treatment.

Considered within the framework of the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health, J.B.'s major impairments were in working memory, declarative learning, and executive function (including emerging awareness of deficits and insufficient control of both behavior and attention to meet the demands of his prior workplace). Positive environmental factors included an employer willing to give J.B. a try at his old job, as long as the employer didn't have to create necessary modifications herself, and three hours per day of job coaching through the Department of Vocational Services. Positive personal factors included his motivation to return to work, outgoing personality, interest in social interactions, and physical mobility.

J.B. worked as the assistant manager of a dairy department in a grocery store. His responsibilities included checking and stocking shelves, creating a list of orders each day, monitoring expiration dates on products, and interacting with customers to find specific items.

His first day back at work was a disaster. He lost track of his place when stocking shelves, having been distracted by the background noise of customers moving about and talking. Customers complained that he started odd and intrusive conversations, and they had difficulty breaking away to continue shopping. He couldn't remember the locations of all of the products, which change periodically as new products are introduced, and couldn't help a customer find goat cheese; he then became frustrated and lost his temper. His boss was shocked at his difficulty at work, as the accident did not change J.B.'s appearance and he had no medical or physical needs. The job coach completed a detailed work assessment and asked for help in coming up with strategies for J.B. to be successful in this position.

You can read the full article at
My car in the junk yard after the wreck that put me in a coma.

It's weed whacking time

7/17/08 Thursday
I’m not sure how yesterday went. All I remember right now is returning Chuck and Lillian’s trailer after removing two thirds of the manure. The other third I got for them in appreciation for the use of their trailer. After I shoveled it into their compost bin with the help of Chuck I went to put the trailer where it belonged. Unfortunately in the process I got the truck stuck. It was straddled over the two or so foot high bank that runs along the dirt road with the rear wheels just spinning. Getting it pulled put required a team effort involving Chuck, Tommie, and Jamie, along with their blazer. The blazer couldn’t pull it over the hump by itself so we ended up jacking up both sides of the truck and placing bricks, rocks, and two by fours under the wheels. That did the trick.

Rascal and Trixie were along for the ride. This is the first time either one of them has been around other dogs and, boy did it set them off. I had the windows just halfway rolled down and they were both hanging out the window and barking like crazy as Chucks dogs barked back. Trixie was the most aggressive with her hackles up and a snarl to her bark. It went on and on. I would shout “Shut Up. Trixie, DOWN” which stopped it for about four seconds and they were back at it. In the process of getting the truck loose I rolled my window down in order to hear over their barking. When I got out to help put things under the wheel Trixie jumped out the window after Chuck’s dogs. They are almost twice the size of Trixie but that didn’t phase her. She’s a fearless pup when it comes to other dogs and not terribly afraid of people either. She knew she was in trouble with me when I saw her jump out of the truck but couldn’t find a way back in. I picked her up and threw her in, highly frustrated with everything going on. We need o get them used to other dogs. When we went to Albuquerque they were around other dogs at the kennel and relaxed after a day. That was when they were only a few months old.

Today is a weed day. I’ve been putting off attending to the weeds because there are so many other things that must be done, but I can’t put it off any longer. With the meager amounts of rain we’ve had they have sprung up all over. Thankfully I have the weed whacker our friends bought us, so that will be a big help. Another incentive to attacking the weeds is the horse poop. It needs to be composted in order to kill seeds, fly and parasite eggs, as well as making it much more effective in the ground. Straight poop can burn the plants I’ve read. Green vegetative matter is a vital part of composting so I’ll be shredding the weeds with the mower and making a big compost pile. There will be too much for just the compost bin we use so I’ll make a pile on the side. One of these days I need to create something for some serious composting. Turning the composting material over on a regular basis is an important step in this process and that is a lot of physical work. I would like to make something that I can roll or perhaps turn on an axle of some type. I keep my eye out for something I can use to fabricate such a device every time I go the landfill.

It’s time to go to work. Cherie has a few days off from her temporary job so that will allow her to go over to Janie’s and get some stuff done over there. She has interviewed for several jobs lately and many look real good. The most important benefit she will get from a full time job will be medical insurance. Working for Janie and doing odd jobs are nice, and she really likes helping Janie, but Cherie has no insurance and can’t get it doing private work. My medical needs are covered by the VA but there is no coverage for Cherie there. Neither of us are getting younger and we are not in the best physical shape so medical benefits are vitally important. One of the jobs has full, company paid, medical and it includes dental. That is a big big deal as Cherie’s teeth are in really bad shape. Pray she gets that job if you could.

Gotta go.
It’s already 3:30. Time sure blew by fast. It doesn’t seem like I’ve made a dent in the weeds but I’m sure worn out. It doesn’t take much to wear me out since the accident. I had lost seventy five pounds while in the coma and was so weak I couldn’t lift my hand high enough to comb my hair, so I had it all cut off. I thought that getting into good physical shape would cure that but it doesn’t seem to be the case. It got to where I was shuffling around like I was drunk so decided to come in, cool off, drink lots of fluids, and rest.

One of the problems that comes up with this short term memory loss is I can’t remember when I took a bath. Add to that the fact that my sense of smell is drastically reduced because if the brain damage and there is a potential problem. On occasions my sense of smell returns, often unusually acute, as does my sense of taste. Another thing affected by the TBI. The point is, as I was out mowing I was suddenly aware that I didn’t smell too good. Glad I’m not out in the public. I have to wonder how many times I have assailed others olfactory senses and was unaware of it.

I must take a nap now. Am dozing off as I write. Like it or not I don’t really have much of a choice. That’s just the way it is. Doing these weeds may take a couple of days.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Hope today is better

7/16/08 Wednesday
It didn’t any get better yesterday. I picked up the trailer from Chuck and Lillian that I was supposed to get yesterday and headed to Pam’s to get horse poop. It took a while for me to find it because I didn’t have a clear recollection of how we got there before. After a while I picked the right road and found it. It took a bit for me to fill up the trailer but I stuck to it till I was done despite the pain and not having something to drink. I need to find something to carry water and keep it cold when I do stuff like this. The horses kept an eye on me the whole time. I sure wish I’d had an apple or something to feed them. I can’t remember clearly but I think Pam told us the horses were adopted and perhaps had not been well cared for. Next time I go out I’ll bring the camera and take some pictures of them. There are four horses I think.

When I brought the trailer load of manure home I was surprised to see the dogs out running. I could have sworn I’d put them inside but can never be sure about my recollections. Then I saw it. The front screen door had the entire lower metal panel pushed out and hanging by a corner. I had locked them up but they tore the door up to escape. I hate getting this angry. This was the second time today they heard from me at this level. I cut a piece of plywood and screwed it on to cover the hole.

So anger was a big part of the day yesterday. I was seething underneath the whole day. These days don’t happen too often but when they do it’s hard on Cherie because I am hard on her too. I always feel bad later but that doesn’t do me or anyone else much good.

Then there was the frustration on top of it. While I was busy planting pumpkins, picking beans, and everything else on the farm, I forgot we were growing strawberries. Seeing how tall the weeds had gotten I went over to pull them up. That’s when I discovered that I had forgotten to water them and evidently had for a while. Most of the strawberries are dead and gone now. Even the one I was so excited about because it was sending out runners and starting new plants was dead. Out of the fifty or seventy strawberry plants we got there are now four left. Many were eaten or didn’t make it through the initial planting but the rest have been killed through neglect. I just forgot all about them. The sad part is I’ve installed soaker hoses for them and watering is a simple matter of plugging the hose in and turning it on for a half hour. I just have to remember to do it. Cherie was to help me with this and organize to do lists and a calendar of tasks but it didn’t happen.

When I went to water the melons I saw another major failure on my part. I don’t know when, because I failed to put it in this journal like I’m supposed to, I had carefully and tediously transplanted some of the new melon plants. There were hills that had three and four plants coming up and some that had none at all so I spent quite some time moving plants to fill in the empty spaces. I know for a fact that I had planned on watering the transplants right away and keeping them watered the next few days because I know you need to. Unfortunately there are just dead and dry remnants left. I wonder how long I neglected to water them.

When I went to water the pumpkins I’d planted I was surprised to see sprouts over an inch high with large leaves spreading out two inches coming out of the hills. I know the packages said they wouldn’t germinate till seven to ten days and in my mind I only planted them maybe two days ago. This inability to gauge time is a big part of my brain injury and is related to the short term memory loss. A month ago seems like yesterday and yesterday seems like last week. It is one of the reasons I should keep a calendar and schedule everything as well as keep this journal. I might think I watered everything yesterday when it was several days back.

I hope today goes better.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


7/15/08 Tuesday
This morning was filled with the usual frustration I have when I see how much of what I wanted to do, planned to do, and needed to do, did not get done. This was accentuated when I heard Cherie’s cry of pain and anger coming from the living room. The dogs had once again taken something off the kitchen counter and destroyed it. Usually they steal food or an occasional plastic cup or something but this time it was a wooden lamb that Cherie had bought for her now deceased grandmother years ago. It was something that had deep sentimental attachments for her, and something that can never be replaced. I got up and screamed at the dogs, sending them cowering to their room not knowing why they were in trouble. This always makes me feel bad and at these times I must work hard to not allow my anger to become physical.

The bad part of this is that the lamb was something I was supposed to hang on the wall long ago. It’s been sitting on the kitchen counter forever. I like the countertops in the kitchen clean without clutter and get upset at Cherie about it regularly so it was something I always noticed. But when I would look at it I couldn’t remember what the deal was. I know I was supposed to do something with it but not what. So it just sat there and got shuffled around when it was in the way. Now it is destroyed and I must take the blame for that. Just something else I was supposed to do and didn’t. I asked Cherie to please remind me of things like this as she left for work this morning. I am sure there are lots of things around the house that I should attend to but can’t remember a single one right now.

So we are off to a start. Not a real good one but it’s a start and I am up and moving. One of the sprinkler hoses blew last night. I had turned it on and forgot about it so it was running all night. God this constant forgetting drives me crazy and depresses me. I’ve been slow a lot lately so wander around lost more.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Making new friends

7/14/08 Monday
I went to the landfill, as I often do on Monday’s, on the way back I saw a crowd of emergency vehicles at the scene of an accident in front of the Town and Country service station on I-20 and FM 137 in Stanton. I don’t usually do this, and generally don’t think much of those who do, but I turned around to see what happened. It is a bad wreck between two pickups, one a Halliburton vehicle and the other was someone’s personal truck. That one had the worst damage. It almost looked like it was a head on collision. The passenger side door had already been removed and they were busy cutting the drivers door off when I went by. Whoever was in it is hurt bad. I said a silent prayer for them. These things always bring up deep emotions as I wonder about the family and what hardships this will bring. I considered getting the camera out I always keep in the glove compartment out to take pictures or a short video of the scene, but that thought only lasted a second. While I know this could be something the newspaper and television news could use it just seemed morbid so I didn’t.

I can’t believe it’s already 2:30. I got out to work early but tire out quickly so it seems like I haven’t gotten much done at all. Can’t remember much of what I did though I transplanted some of the melon plants and put fertilizer on lots of plants. I hope I did the fertilizer right. There was a five gallon bucket I had mixed fertilizer and water in two or three weeks ago. I don’t remember how much or what kind but know that a lot of it didn’t dissolve and had settled to the bottom of the bucket. So I just poured a little in the watering can we have and mixed it with a lot of water, about a ten to one mixture. That I poured on the bases of plants and then watered the plants. I hope it works and doesn’t burn the plants like I’ve read about.

I see that I didn’t write anything about Saturday so figure it would be good to do so now while it’s in my mind. We went to the farmer’s market to sell for the first time. I picked lots (at least I thought it was lots) of blackeyed peas and took them along with a bunch of plastic store bags. We got there at ten till nine. The market is supposed to open at nine but there was already a crowd there. We sold out in five minutes. I didn’t know what to charge so I just told folks to give us whatever they felt like. One old guy looked at me and said “Your kidding!!!”. “No” I replied and added “In fact if you need it you can have it for free”. This threw him off so he took three bags and handed me ten dollars watching my eyes. I thanked him sincerely and he stopped for a minute… then handed me fifteen more dollars. We were amazed at how many people wanted peas and were willing to pay a good price for them. In trying to figure out what to charge we had looked in the produce section of some grocery stores and failed to find fresh blackeyed peas at all. One lady at the market had hurried over when we were just setting up and wanted to buy everything we had. Seeing that others wanted some as well she decided to not take them all so they could get some. She told us that blackeyed peas were like gold and that she had paid thirty six dollars for a bushel basket of them last year. Next year we will plant a whole lot more.

One lady that wasn’t able to get some was happy when we told her she could come out and pick her own. She asked where we were and come to find out doesn’t live too far away. She asked if she should pay now and that confused me as things often do. I didn’t know if she had already got a bag or if she wanted to pay for what she planned to pick so just said she didn’t have to. When she walked away I asked Cherie what had just happened. She didn’t know cause she had been busy talking to someone else.

We didn’t see any reason to stay after selling out so headed back home. It was nice to meet new people but I had already had a rough morning and was pretty slow as it was. When we got home there was a car in the drive. “Who could that be?” we wondered. I walked out back and there was a lady picking blackeyed peas. “Can I help you?” I asked when I got close. She was the lady from the farmer’s market but of course I didn’t recognize her at all. Facial recognition is one of the big problems I have from the brain injury. Cherie came out and recognized her right away and let me know who she was.

During the conversation we learned that they have horses. I asked about obtaining horse manure and she said we could have as much as we wanted. After she finished picking peas we followed her over to their place. It’s a nice little homestead well off the beaten path. They are doing lots of work and have lots of plans for the place like we do for ours. We sat and talked for quite a while. Pam has MS, which is something I’ve become very familiar with through helping Wayne. We talked about God and some of the experiences she has had in various churches. Boy was that familiar, the same kind of things we have experienced in our lives. It’s sad to see and hear about those who are supposed to be the representatives of Christ here on earth but who’s lives bear little or no resemblance to what I read in the bible. In some cases it was the misdirected zeal of those who had been taught false doctrine in the Pentecostal part of the church but in most cases there was pride, arrogance, self righteousness, and the blindness that those things bring. I think they will become good friends who we can relate with very well. I look forward to seeing that happen.

It’s 3:20 now and I’ve got to get going. I bought a trailer ball while at Harbor Freight that should fit Chuck and Lillian’s trailer but it won’t fit the truck so I must get another one. They will let me use the trailer to pick up the horse poop, which I want to do today so got to get moving. I’m not about to drive all the way to Odessa to return a seven dollar trailer ball so will run to Walmart.

The satellite is running slow again. Yesterday I saw another car parked on the side of the road and when they saw me they took off. When I checked it seems that someone tapped into our Linksys did a lot of downloading again. When I told Cherie she said “Boy, word gets out fast”. It seems so. Both of the cars I’ve seen are older and not in real good shape. Not that we have any room to talk because that describes what we drive, it’s just an observation.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Search for a beautiful mind

7/13/08 Sunday
My friend, Ralph, sends me much information on traumatic brain injuries, mostly related to our soldiers serving in the mid east. This one is particularly relevant to me. Dr. Seymour Papert’s injury is on par to the one I incurred. I too had to learn how to walk and talk and when Cherie and I first got back together it had been two years after my injury. Cherie remembers how difficult it was for me to speak, often in a monotone with wrong words totally unrelated to the conversation coming out. It still happens some now but not too often. I hear myself call the kittens “puppies” a lot. I never had the resources Dr. Papert did to help him rehabilitate, with the exception of a few short weeks at the Brain Injury Institute in St. Louis. That was rudely interrupted when I was extradited to Toledo. I spent a lot of time in the public libraries researching brain injuries and creating exercises to help strengthen my mind. One of those was playing chess with myself. Because of the short term memory loss I could make a move and by the time I switched sides would forget what “The other guy” (me) was up to so had to analyze both sides for each move.

Anyway, check out this video and read Seymour's story if you could.

In search of a beautiful mind

He was long a jewel of the MIT faculty. Now, after a devastating brain injury, mathematician Seymour Papert is struggling bravely to learn again how to think like, speak like, be like the man of genius he was.

Seymour Papert constructed a mobile as part of his neurotherapy at his house in Blue Hill, Maine. The former MIT mathematics professor suffered massive brain trauma when he was struck by a motorbike. (Fred Field for The Boston Globe)

By Linda Matchan
Globe Staff / July 12, 2008

Video (2 min 42 sec) --- Reinventing Seymour Papert


BLUE HILL, Maine - Seymour Papert is tinkering with a robotic, computer-controlled turtle in The Learning Barn, the rustic, light-filled laboratory where he developed and refined many of his ideas.

The long table he sits at is covered with relics of his prodigious career. A super-inexpensive laptop computer - based on his ideas - that originated at the MIT Media Laboratory, where he was a founding faculty member. A pile of DVDs on higher mathematics. A truck that brings to mind Papert's work in developing a line of robotic toys made of Legos. His turtle, a device to teach children to program computers.

Papert, who was a professor of mathematics, education, and media technology at MIT, has devoted much of his career to learning: self-learning (he taught himself Russian) and learning about learning. He was one of the early pioneers of artificial intelligence, and he invented the computer language Logo to teach children about computers.

Now he must learn something even more challenging - how to be Seymour Papert again.

Nineteen months ago he was struck by a motorbike in Hanoi and suffered a brain injury so severe he was comatose for a month and couldn't walk, talk, or read. The man widely considered to be the most important living thinker about the way children learn is struggling with an unreliable memory and an uncertain grip on words. And his wife and his caregivers are using insights from his theories about learning to help bring him back to a normal life.

"His accident was worse than horrible for somebody whose life was the mind," said Nicholas Negroponte, a cofounder and former director of MIT Media Laboratory.

It's been a year since Papert came home to Blue Hill on the Maine coast, where he lives with his wife, Suzanne Massie, a writer and Russian scholar. He'd spent months in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Doctors say it could take years to know the full extent of the brain damage.

He spends every weekday in The Learning Barn. Here, with friends and aides, he plays dominoes to practice working with numbers. He adjusts gears on a Lego truck, an echo of a lifelong passion for gears so exuberant he wrote an essay about them - "The Gears of My Childhood" - in his seminal 1980 book, "Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas." He works, tentatively, on math problems and is starting to play chess.

"He is unbelievably brave and courageous," Massie said. "I've come to the conclusion that the good Lord still wants him to do some work."

The accident

When the accident happened on Dec. 5, 2006, Papert was 78 years old and as vigorous as ever.

The South Africa native was midway through an ambitious new book about the future of education. He'd just returned from Greece, where he lectured at an international educational conference. He had a meeting coming up with the king of Thailand to talk about new learning initiatives in Bangkok. Though he'd retired from MIT in 1996, he worked under contract as a consultant with doctoral students, gave lectures, and attended faculty meetings.

He had been invited to Vietnam to deliver the keynote speech at a conference of mathematicians and educators hosted by Hanoi Technology University. The speech he gave was vintage Papert. With his eloquent command of language and thoughtful discourse, he challenged the audience to help students embrace "the beautiful jewel of the human spirit called pure mathematics" and to "think beyond the possible, beyond what you think can be done."

The next day he went back to the conference and was struck by a speeding motorbike as he crossed a chaotically busy street. He was rushed to a Hanoi hospital, where he had two emergency brain operations. A few days later he was airlifted, in a coma, to Massachusetts General Hospital in a Swiss air ambulance.

He spent nearly a month in intensive care and seven months in Maine hospitals and rehabilitation facilities, at one point developing septicemia, an infection that nearly killed him. Last July, he returned home to the light-filled 1839 farmhouse adjoining The Learning Barn in this picturesque coastal community.

He was a very changed man. He'd lost nearly 40 pounds and used a wheelchair and a walker. His speech was totally garbled. He was relearning how to feed himself. He had bouts of extreme anxiety and was terrified of stairs.

With some trepidation, Massie began helping her husband become himself again, the man she describes as charming, funny, a deep thinker, a "constant learner," a scientist so fully engaged he often neglected to tie his shoes.

Doctors prescribed 24-hour home care, Massie said, while offering no assurances he'd recover completely. "Memory and other high-level thought functions take a long time [to return]. It can take years," said Dr. Douglas Katz, medical director of Braintree Rehabilitation Hospital's brain injury program, who was asked to consult on Papert's case.

"We wait," said Massie. "We wait."

But not passively. "I will say there certainly were times [with Papert] when I got pretty depressed," she says. But she clung to hopeful advice offered by a physician in Hanoi. "He said, 'It's a good thing he is so brilliant; it means his neurons are well developed,' " Massie said. " 'Put him to work at something hard as soon as possible.' "

She did. Inspired by Papert's own ideas on experiential, hands-on learning, she encouraged friends and colleagues to relate to him as the mathematician and thinker they'd always known. Colleagues brought learning toys and puzzles to the hospital. "Past colleagues would come with gears," said Dr. Peter Keebler, chief of rehabilitation at Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor, where Papert spent several weeks. "In a sense they were applying his own paradigms for learning."

Exercising his mind

Four mornings a week, Papert works with Peter Rottman, a friend and executive director of The Learning Barn, who engages him in conversation and reminds him of the theories he constructed and the work he used to do.

"I ask open-ended questions," said Rottman. "I never know where we'll end up."

Much of the time he talks to Rottman in a kind of gibberish, using nonsense words and sentences, albeit with the syntax and the cadence of proper sentence construction.

Rottman observes that Papert still speaks in his old professorial manner, drawing circles with his finger on the table, interjecting terminology - "data," "robot," "key ideas" - from his academic days at MIT. Even when he speaks nonsensically, it's with a South Africa accent and a tendency to pontificate.

Their starting point, one recent morning, was Papert's work with children at MIT Media Lab.

"Are children still using the robots?" Rottman asked.

Papert paused and appeared to reflect. "For this particular group of kids, something of kinetic directed very started getting this moving," he responded authoritatively, but then lapsed: "So a lot of children gradually are taken vocay and the convense."

"When I talk to you," Rottman said, "do you understand everything I say?"

Papert nodded. "Somewhat," he said, and smiled.

Rottman said it's disconcerting, sometimes, to watch Papert speak and know he's conveying only a small percentage of what he's thinking. "When he's talking to you, obviously in his mind it's correct, but coming out of his mouth it's not. Every now and then he'll string together three or four sentences and they'll just be perfect," Rottman said. "But if he can put together three or four, why not five or six? That's the fascinating part. We don't know."

Searching for Seymour

Papert has a devoted group of caregivers working around the clock, including nurses, a physical trainer, and a speech therapist. The services cost $15,000 a month, Massie said, and since Papert has used up his Medicare and Blue Cross benefits, she was forced to launch a Seymour Papert Recovery Fund, which has generated donations from colleagues and friends all over the world, as well as the Lego company. She said MIT has refused to help pay for his home care, although it did cover his emergency evacuation from Hanoi.

In a statement, MIT said: "Seymour Papert, a retired professor emeritus at MIT since 1996, has been a member of the MIT community for over 40 years and is loved and respected by everyone who has had the privilege of working with him. Since his terrible accident in Hanoi, MIT has provided him with assistance and support."

At the end of March, Massie brought Papert to MIT for the first time since the accident to visit his old colleagues at the Media Lab. "I hope he understood what was being said," Nicholas Negroponte said via e-mail, adding: "It did not feel like the same Seymour."

Massie is convinced it is the same Seymour.

Rottman, for his part, is heartened by the continual improvements in Papert's speech. "At the very beginning, I think he was confused. He wasn't very aware of his surroundings. Now he seems much more aware."

Then he turned to Papert to get his perspective. "Think that will change, Seymour?" he asked.

"I don't know," Papert replied with a shrug. "We'll see."

Friday, July 11, 2008

Got a hold of my friend

7/11/08 Friday
I finally got a hold of my friend in Toledo. Been calling his number for two weeks and only getting his answering machine. It had me real worried because Allen is subject to intense depression and has been suicidal for years. I’ve pulled him through several times, one time when he called to ask what he owned that I would like to have. “Anything Bob, you name it” he said and I knew he was planning on ending his life. Allen suffers chronic pain from a lifetime of abuse, both from his grandfather, who beat him with two by fours and a hammer, and self inflicted from years of competition martial arts fighting. Adding to that are highly probable traumatic brain injuries from getting hit in the head and knocked unconscious with a hammer, falling through the roof of a barn, and countless blows from martial arts fights. I was so worried I searched the Toledo newspaper online to see if his name showed up and was going to call the police to see if they had anything. So I was ecstatic to hear him answer the phone. Allen has been sick with a stomach virus but also fell down his stairs while carrying a box full of stuff that included a big vase. That he said broke over his head. On top of that he twisted his ankle so bad he can’t hardly walk on it, but he does anyway. Of course he didn’t go to the hospital like he should have. Too macho for that.

Allen is about as tough as I am. You can go back in this journal to read and see pictures of when he blew himself up. Allen is a member of the Pyrotechnics Guild and builds, or at least used to build, professional fireworks. At their yearly get together in North Dakota a thirteen inch shell he made went off twenty feet away. It pushed his truck sideways five feet and blew him over the top of it. I spent a lot of time cooking, cleaning, and helping him surgically remove gravel from his body. There is a picture of his leg that shows how bad it was. Without insurance and unable to work going to the hospital wasn’t an option so we did it ourselves without anesthesia. I would go over everyday to change his bandages and clean the wounds.

It would be nice if I could go back to Toledo for a few days to help him out and for that matter just find and visit my friends and see what happened to my former secretary. Her phone is disconnected so I haven’t been able to get a hold of her either.

While out working on the pumpkin patch I noticed a car parked down by the phone company’s building. Suspicious he might be tapping into our Wi Fi I went into the house to check. Sure enough someone was going online through our system. So I spent the last two hours trying to figure out how to set up the security system on the Linksys but kept getting confused so I gave up. I’m sure it’s a simple thing but I can’t quite grasp how to do it. Looking at the link Bill gave me to check on our satellite usage I found that someone had gone online for nearly two hours from three to five in the morning. We’ve got to get that security thing up. Some idiot could be doing child porn or something else illegal and it could get traced back to us. Plus they can hack into our computers. Can’t have that.

Alltel sucks.

WOW!!! Someone sent me this link concerning Alltel. It's Consumer Affair's website and, boy are there some horror stories about Alltel in there. My recommendation, based on that and our personal experience, is to run like crazy away from doing any business with Alltel. Oh, they've got some great ads but even greater deception, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

warm weather is back

7/10/08 Thursday
One of the good things about Cherie working is it helps me get up and get going in the morning. Ninety degree temperatures are back so the nice run of cool weather is over for now. Last night Cherie couldn’t find our colander. We looked all over and it seems to have disappeared. Last week we couldn’t find the nice ceramic measuring spoons we bought to replace the ones you could no longer read the measurement on. After looking and looking Cherie said that she might have thrown them away during one of her fits of cleaning up. This is unsettling. If the colander was also thrown away I will be concerned.

Hopefully I will finish planting the pumpkins today. First I need to go into Stanton and take care of some things. One of those will be to get a copy of the division order where the mineral rights were legally transferred to Larry and I. It is another thing that the executrix of the estate, Virginia, failed to do. There are other things but I can’t go into them here.

I downloaded the pictures on the camera. I often find pictures that remind me of things I did and forgot. Last week I had dug up one of the rows of potatoes. Here is a picture of the total bounty that row provided. They are little bitty things. Not much at all, pretty meager pickings. It was disappointing to say the least considering these were the healthiest looking plants for a while. I know I read on how to grow potatoes several times but the problem is I forget what I read. Now that we can go online any time we need I can go back and read again to refresh my memory. It’s all a learning process so next year I’m sure we will do better. It’s easier to remember lessons learned the hard way, by doing them, not just reading about it.

That’s it for now. I fixed a big batch of French toast for breakfast so that should hold me for a while. Got places to go and things to do so bye now.
Yep, it’s hot now. I was weeding and it got to where every time I stood up I would get so dizzy I almost fell over. Good time to take a break. I got a lot done in Stanton. The best part was being able to get the two months of bank statements Virginia failed to include with the rest we had to force her to send. Reviewing them I was happy to see that everything was in order. I think the reason Virginia refused to send them was to just be pissey about it. She got upset when I called her on her brother stealing the washer and dryer and hasn’t talked since. I think that’s the reason she increased her executrix fee by fifteen hundred dollars to a total of two grand. That or just plain greed, who knows. She had originally said she would do it for five hundred and even put that in the paperwork. Of course part of what I was doing in Stanton was her job, getting the oil lease correctly registered with one of the companies that pays for what our well produces. They didn’t have a clue till I contacted them. It’s disappointing to see that someone you thought was good isn’t. When I would talk about how everyone went through the house taking what they wanted she would say “There was nothing of value in that house” as if that made things alright. If you steal a piece of candy that is only worth a penny you are still a thief. But that’s how folks justify things, make them alright in their mind. “It’s not worth much so it’s ok to take it”. Of course there was nothing of value in the house, everything of value was stolen.

But it was good to see everything was in order with the checking account.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008


7/9/08 Wednesday
Anger…I suppose I’ve been angry most of my life but this brain injury brings it out more. Perhaps it started when a man and his wife showed up at my grandmother’s house in Hearne, Texas. I was told “This is your father and new mother” and packed up, put in his car, and taken from the first person I ever remember in my life, who I called “Mama”. Perhaps it was instilled deep into my infant brain as I witnessed the violent emotion that goes with a marriage falling apart. I don’t know, just know I’ve been angry most of my life.

I went to Alltel to deal with another problem they have caused. One of our friends learned about how Alltel charged us a disconnect fee for the internet service that didn’t work and decided to pay it off. We had to make payment arrangements because despite keeping our two phone lines operational Alltel wanted their two hundred dollars immediately and threatened to turn off all service if we didn’t pay. When our friend called Cherie from Alltel’s office Cherie had her make sure that Alltel stopped automatically pulling the payments out of our bank account. She brought it up with the salesman and was assured that it was done. The other day we got notification that our account was overdrawn and charged a twenty five or thirty dollar overdraft fee.

At Sunday school I verified with our friend that she was told the withdrawals would be stopped before going to Alltel. I tried my best to be level headed, not fly off the handle like the last time. That lasted till Brian handed me the phone to talk to whoever handled this kind of thing. She starts in with her heavily accented voice (Who knows what country she was in) telling me that when we make payment arrangement it’s our obligation to make them. Trying to explain to her that the entire amount had been paid was an exercise in futility. “It doesn’t matter. When you make payment arrangements you are obligated to make them” she repeated. I then tried to explain that when the bill was paid the payment arrangement was brought up and we were told it was taken care of. “That doesn’t matter. You made an agreement. you are obligated to make your payments”. I tried again and heard “Did you call customer service?”. Upon hearing me say “No” she told me that I had to call customer service to change the payment arrangement. Explaining that our friend was in Alltel’s office talking with an Alltel employee didn’t matter. Again I heard “Did you call costumer service? You have to call customer service”. OK, I’ll try again, “We were told by the Alltel employee that it was taken care of?”. “He can’t do that, you have to call customer service. Did you call customer service?”. That did it, now I’m off. I finally got her to excuse the last two payments but I won’t hold my breath that it will happen.

During all this poor Brian said “You don’t have to be so hostile”. I know that and didn’t want to be but it happened anyway. At the end of my visit I apologized for my behavior as I did the last time. I think that was when we finally decided to turn of the internet line and I had gotten very vocal. I’m not sure but probably wrote about it in this journal. “Can you see anything I should be happy about?” I asked. He said he couldn’t. “I don’t suppose it would do me any good to ask for a credit equaling the overdraft charge you guys caused” I stated. Brian’s response was “I can’t do that. You have to call customer service”. “Brian, I doubt Alltel would do it. I mean, come on, here’s a multi million dollar company that is so greedy it wouldn’t let me out of a contract even when your own tech’s verified that the PC card did not work. One of them even told me that the nearest tower was five miles away and it needs to be within three miles for the PC card to work right. So everyone confirmed what we had didn’t work but they’re still charging us two hundred dollars to disconnect a line that won’t work” I started. Somewhere in that rant I used the “F” word so, seeing I was getting worked up again decided I’d better leave.

I feel like crap about all this and wish I could control this anger but it doesn’t seem to work. After it was over I went over to Steve and Janie’s where I worked on their yard. Cherie was there. I had called her during the Alltel episode so she knew I’d had a bad spell and knew I would need to relax and unwind. We decided to go to the “Moon Garden” restaurant and enjoy a nice peaceful meal. Hey folks, you ought to try them out if your one of our local readers. It’s at the corner of Garfield and loop 250 on the south side of the loop. It’s really good and I love how the waitress’s write our orders in Chinese script. There’s regular English on the ticket where it comes to price and stuff but their notes are in Chinese. How authentic is that!

I guess the slowdowns are back. I don’t know what I did yesterday other than working on Steve and Janie’s yard and being an ass at Alltel. Everything else is pretty much a blank. I had a spell this afternoon where it became hard to walk and I couldn’t remember what I was doing, wandering towards the garage, getting there and wondering what I came for, then realizing I needed something that was in a different area entirely. After an hour of that I came in. The slowdown came with a bad headache as well. These always drain my energy. I don’t remember doing it but I must have fallen asleep cause I just woke up. Probably slept for three hours.

This morning I made a series of calls to find out what is going wrong with our satellite internet. It slowed way down starting two days ago. I called number after number to try and find someone to talk to. First was trying to find the installer. The first numbers I had from the contract didn’t work at all. I found one tucked in a sentence that got me a message but no human. After hanging up the phone rang and it was from that number. They had caller ID so returned my call. Come to find out they don’t have anything to do with problems, just put the systems up. The guy gave me some numbers to call so I called them. I was put on one of those “Your call will be answered in the order it came” holds so waited, and waited, listening intently every time the machine told me “Thank you for waiting. A representative will be with you shortly. Your call will…”. After twenty five minutes the voice apologized and asked me to leave my number so someone could get back to me. I declined.

I dug up the number we had from trying to get the system installed in the first place and called him. That worked and I got answers. Seems that there is a “Fair Access Policy” that limits how many megabytes of information you can use in a twenty four hour period. We had gone over that limit so our bandwidth was “restricted” slowing things down to a snails pace. Bill told me that I can program the computer to do software upgrades at three to six in the morning when they don’t count your usage because it’s not a busy time. The idea of fair access is to keep the system from being overloaded during peak usage hours. For ten more bucks a month we can get a higher speed and more usage but I think I’ll just limit my downloads and uploading things like pictures to the blog.

I’m rested now and the headache is manageable so I’ll head back out to plant pumpkins. Been working on it two days and got nothing done.

Monday, July 07, 2008

It's good to know good people

7/7/08 Monday
It’s been a great weekend. After having the bad day and several slowdowns my fear was that the cycle of having periods of slowdowns that lasted for weeks had returned. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. The last few days have been cognately clear and yesterday I was unusually sharp, running a good eight or nine on the bob scale. What a relief that is. An interesting note (at least for me); the testing that Texas Rehab had me do showed an I.Q. of 93. While that is a far cry from the score of 136 (the bottom end of the genius level) I had when tested in high school it places me at the average for this country. Considering how many portions of my brain show up as black dead holes on the MRI’s I am very grateful, and blessed, to be average. Now I still have the difficulties of emotional control, social skills, understanding and interpreting others speech and actions, and memory loss but all in all I’m doing pretty good.

Saturday we planned to go to the farmer’s market and sell some of the blackeyed peas but didn’t make it out till eleven. I was out at 6:00 that morning picking the beans but it was too late to sell them. We enjoyed visiting with Matt and the professional photographer who has a booth there. He surprised me when he said he visits the blog regularly and was impressed with some of my photographs. I feel bad that I can’t remember his name at the moment but maybe he can leave it in the comment section if he sees this. Come on out to the market next Saturday and check out his stuff. Lots of great items with his photo’s on them and some framed pictures.

After visiting we decided to eat out. It’s nice to be able to do that and we can because Cherie is working. Her job is temporary and will only last a couple of weeks or so but she’s looking for something full time. Out here jobs are easy to find, so easy that Cherie can take her time and pick and choose.

So we’ve been seeing an advertisement on TV for a barbeque place called “Sam’s” that is rated one of the top barbeque places in Texas, or something like that. I’ve been wanting to try it so we went hunting for the place. I dimly recalled it was on Scharburer? (can’t remember how to spell it) so got on that road and drove till we found it. First of all it’s my kind of place, no pretension, small, homey, and simple. A neighborhood type of place where you can bet most of the patrons know each others name. BOY WAS IT GOOD!!! I’d say it’s the best barbeque I’ve had since we moved to Texas, and for that matter I can’t think of a better tasting barbeque in Ohio or Michigan. They didn’t have a big selection on the menu but they didn’t need one. The peach cobbler we had for desert was a great homemade type of desert, not at all like the commercial stuff you usually find. We will be back. By the way, I sold the lady who waited on us, I think she was an owner, a bunch of the blackeyed peas.

I don’t remember anything else that happened Saturday so let’s move on to yesterday. (Sunday) I had a big bin of the blackeyed peas so we thought it would be good to take to Sunday school and see if anyone in class would want to buy some. I got out early that morning to pick some more and as I did I got to thinking. We have been tremendously blessed by the friends we’ve made there. They have done so much to help us out, so much it would be hard to list it all. So selling them what they’ve helped me be able to grow just didn’t seem right. I mentioned that to Cherie and said “I’d rather give it to them, bless them a little for blessing us”. She was all for that too.

So I carried the big bin of peas in and encouraged everyone to take as much as they could. When I announced it Jen asked if she could set out a basket for love offerings in return. “I suppose” was my response. If I had sold it at the two bucks a bag we were going to ask for at the market we maybe would have earned thirty bucks. When I counted the love offering it was two dollars over a hundred. I didn’t count it till we got in the car after class and when I told Cherie how much was there she cried. “They are so generous, they are so good to us” she said between sobs. No question about that. It is good to know good people.

The weather has improved greatly. There hasn’t been a lot of rain, in fact hardly any though we did have a little a few days ago, but the temperatures have been in the high eighties instead of over a hundred. That’s a big help for the garden. Not only for the plants but much easier on me when it comes to working outside. Today I hope to get a whole lot done, of course I hope that every day. There is a chance of rain over the next few days and it’s time to get fall crops planted now that I know to do that, thanks Matt for letting me know.

Time to go to work.
I was going great guns all day but just ran out of steam suddenly. Part of that is a minor slowdown but I might have forgotten to eat lunch. Not feeling the sensation of hunger or having a sense of time makes it easy for me to do that. Add to the equation the fact that I have a hard time remembering if I ate and if I did, what I ate. So I just fixed a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. It’s 4:00 now so that’s past my naptime as well. I just want to keep on going but need to rest. Man, it’s frustrating to only be fifty two but have a body and mind that acts like it’s eighty.

I’ve been working on the pumpkin patch. It sure is going slow. Had to get the tiller out because despite the entire area having been tilled the ground is rock hard. This is from the rain we had a few days ago. After it rains the sun bakes the ground hard like clay despite it mostly being sand. So I’m loosening it up with the tiller. There are six different kinds of pumpkin seeds I have but each package only has fifteen to twenty seeds in them.

I’m having a hard time keeping my train of thought right now. My mind wanders into imaginary conversations with people whom I’d like to say a few things to along with just disconnected thought processes. I suppose a nap would be in order considering this is a part of the drifting off we often do when going to sleep.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

The hidden illness

I was emailed this by a friend who keeps me up to date on brain injuries and veteran's issues. It struck me because of the similarities to my injury. Here's a man who was a professor and obviously intelligent. Then he gets lost, carries his dog upside down without being aware it was not the right way to do it, can no longer read as he once did, and...well you can read it. I too have these problems along with several others. There was a time I would read two or three books a week but now I don't read books at all, except the bible. For some reason that I can remember. I suspect this is because of the years I spent studying it. Here's a point, TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is called the hidden illness because, like this professor, we look normal with no visible signs of injury. But there are many short circuits in the brain that cause things like turning bolts the wrong way (Something I often do despite years of mechanical experience)and turning the wrong direction. And the problems are different from individual to individual, depending on what circuits in the brain are damaged. So it's hard to get a handle on. A vital key to helping us is communication, just talk and understand. There have been some who have not tried to understand and thus judged me because of my...socially awkward?...behavior. It caused rejection and hurt both Cherie and I. This is why I endeavor to bring awareness of the issues that come with TBI. There are an estimated 1.4 million TBI's every year and it has been called the signature injury of our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. So read this if you could. It's a fascinating, at least to me, look at the effect of a brain injury that went undiagnosed for a while.

Major life changes can be traced back to accident in 1983

Retired Union College professor uses his own experiences to help others with brain injuries

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Retired Union College professor of chemistry and runner, John Sowa, 73, goes for a run near the Union campus. He survived a brain injury and has been instrumental in helping others cope with the same.

SCHENECTADY — Before his accident on Oct. 13, 1983, John Sowa, then a 49-year-old organic chemistry professor at Union College, memorized the first and last names of all 300 of his students within the first two weeks of classes. He also ran 60 miles a week and bicycled between 20 and 50 miles a week.
“Today, I can’t remember names and I have difficulty with faces,” said Sowa, now 73, who sustained a brain injury in the accident. “I understand it’s normal for people to be like that, but for me it’s a big change.”
Through persistent effort and determination to improve, however, Sowa has gone on to help countless others with brain injuries, as well as students at Union who were having cognitive and emotional problems.
“I think I am more understanding and helpful to people than I was before the accident,” said Sowa, who lives in Glenville, with his wife, Eileen. “I really enjoy helping people.”
Giving tirelessly
Sowa, the father of four and grandfather of four, is the co-founder of four traumatic brain-injury support groups, and he was on the board of directors of the Brain Injury Association of New York State for 12 years. He also started an annual display by brain-injured artists in the north lobby of the Empire State Plaza.
He has spoken at numerous Brain Injured Association conferences and has lobbied for helmets for bicycles riders.
Judy Sandman, assistant director of the Brain Injury Association of New York State, described Sowa as a remarkable human being who lives with a disability, yet gives of himself tirelessly.
“I can’t tell you the difference he has made in so many people’s lives,” she said. “Through hard work, he is always trying to work on his deficits as much as he can. I think that is why he is a role model for so many people. He shows what can be done through perseverance and wanting to make a difference. There are few outstanding people you meet in your lifetime. He is one of them.”
Sowa was riding his bicycle on Union Street on a Thursday afternoon in 1983 when he stopped at a red light. When the light turned green, he continued to go straight as a car turned left and came directly at him.
“I started yelling, ‘Hey watch it, you’re going it hit me,’ but it was too late,” recalled Sowa, who was not wearing a helmet.
The next thing he remembers, he was picking himself up off the ground, his head bleeding, feeling faint.
His right side and back began to hurt, and he was taken to Ellis Hospital, given 15 stitches for a head wound, and sent home.
“No one talked to me about the possibility of a brain injury,” said Sowa. “In those days, that wasn’t something on their minds.”
Drastic changes
Sowa took Friday off and rested on the weekend before returning on Monday to Union where he said his lectures were totally disorganized.
“It was just very difficult for me to put my thoughts together,” he recalled.
No longer able to run because he was so dizzy, when Sowa tried to walk, he would often lose his balance and stumble like a drunk. He also began dropping things.
Always handy with mechanical projects, he began turning valves and bolts the wrong way, often breaking them.
One day when he brought his dog to the veterinarian, he found himself in the wrong part of town. When he finally found the office on Union Street, he began walking in the wrong direction, carrying his dog upside down.
“Fortunately, a friend found me and set me straight,” Sowa recalled.
Once a voracious reader, Sowa’s reading skills were virtually wiped out. He couldn’t recall the first sentence he had read after reading the second. As he moved his eyes across a page, he would get dizzy and see streaks of lightning in his field of vision.
“If I have a problem, I try to find a solution as opposed to the cause. So I started projecting the outline of my notes onto a screen to help me know where I was in the my classroom lectures,” said Sowa.
Diagnosis at last
After seeing several doctors to no avail, Sowa saw a neuropsychologist at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital who suspected a brain injury.
In the summer of 1984, Sowa’s brother brought him to a neurologist at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee to be evaluated. There, he learned he had a brain injury.
He spent the next several years studying coping skills while continuing to work. He often told his students about the affect his brain injury had on his life.
“Because of my own problems, I was more understanding of students’ difficulties in learning,” Sowa recalled. “And I became more verbal in encouraging students. I had a few students come up to me and tell me they were thinking about committing suicide. We talked about it, and I told them who to see. I think I helped a number of students that way.”
Sowa said it’s often difficult for others to understand what brain-injured people go through.
“We who are brain-injured often say we wish we had a cast or bandage so people could see we had this injury,” said Sowa. “You don’t want sympathy, but you do want people to understand that you have a problem.”
Still active in the Amsterdam brain-injured support group, Sowa said he enjoys helping new people in that group.
“I think I know where people are coming from, and I have the skills to help them understand what their problem is.”
Shortly after retiring from teaching in 2002, Sowa began working as an environmental health and safety officer at the college, often putting in 10-hour days.
Sowa is also vice chairman of the Schenectady County Local Emergency Planning Committee and vice chairman for the Community Advisory Panel for Schenectady International Group. He is a member of the board of directors for Mother Teresa Academy, a new school in Clifton Park, and is involved with several other organizations.
“I think I have continued to improve because of the coping skills I was taught,” said Sowa. “Sometimes, you forget, and you have a lapse, and you just need to work at it again. Things that are natural reflexes for most people are for me processes.”
Making strides
In 2004, Sowa decided he wanted to try running again.
“When I first started running, I had to have a student run next to me because I would run off to the right,” said Sowa. “It was as if a magnet was pulling me.”
Little by little, Sowa improved, and he now runs three to eight miles most days around the college campus or around his neighborhood on the weekends.
In 2006, he ran in his first race since 1983, and he came in second in his age group at the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater. That same year he came in first in his age group in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure in Albany. He also came in first in his age group in Schenectady’s Stockade-athon.
“I think I’ve continued to improve because I strive to be better,” said Sowa. It’s a challenge, and I like challenges. One thing I notice is that when I run, it clears my mind about everything else. It’s a nice feeling.”

© The Daily Gazette Co. 2008

Friday, July 04, 2008

It's good to be in love

The Celtic heart I designed and carved for Cherie one Valentine's day. (click on it to enlarge)

7/4/08 Friday
I am slow again this morning. Running a five or six on the bob scale. Thinking about all the things I need to do and trying to decide what to do first is an ever changing series of thoughts. Hell, trying to decide what to say and what words to use is difficult right now. I should make a list of what needs to be done. That’s what they taught me at the Brain Injury Institute. I won’t, just don’t feel like it. I will just get outside and get busy. Otherwise I can spend a couple of hours in here trying to make a list and getting distracted, then little gets done outside. It sucks to have this problem come back.

Dinner at Red Lobster was great. Cherie and I loved listening to the “Oldies” on the radio as we drove to Odessa. There is a different spirit in those old songs that is seldom found in today’s music. The love songs speak to us so well and we held hands a lot as I drove. It’s still a wonder to us that we are together, and a great joy. I just love to look at her smiling face.

Gotta get out to work.

Matt Hudson called yesterday to see how things are going. He’s the guy who runs the farmers market downtown. When I told him about the potato plants he said it might mean they were ready to harvest. I hadn’t thought of that. Having never grown potato’s before it’s all a learning experience. I read all about growing potato’s but not being able to remember what I read doesn’t help. That’s why being able to go online any time needed is so important because I can look things up when needed. He also told me it was about time to start planting for fall crops. Another thing I haven’t thought of.