THE MUSEUM – A Grand Reopening

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Well, after almost nine months “The Museum” is once again open for business. The Museum is the name my grandchildren gave their arts and craft area that was dedicated to their use in my rec room. For years the kids created their masterpieces using all sorts of medium, from crayons to watercolors. No matter how those artworks looked to outsiders we considered them great works of art and the best of them were taped, glued, and using any means available attached to the walls of my rec room. About two years ago after having visited an art museum with their parents they christened the rec room “The Museum” and with great seriousness took great pains to display their artwork. They and I were very proud of the museum so it was with a great deal of sadness that it was destroyed last July. On July 19th 2011 we had a rain storm of epic proportions. Over five inches of rain fell in just three hours the result of which was that the sewers in my area backed up into our basement and destroyed The Museum.

At the time Donna Noble, a parenting columnist mentioned The Museum in her article Nurturing The Artist Part III. Over the next eight months or so doing all the work myself I not only rebuilt The Museum but created a new, improved and expanded version of  The Museum. In the old museum the kids shared a work table which consisted of an old table top sitting on top of crates and measured about 3 ft. x 5 ft. My first inclination was to buy individual tables for each grandchild. When I told this to my six year old grandson he suggested that I cut the old table in half and save a lot of money.

The new work area.

He was so proud of the fact that he was going to save grandpa a lot of money that I could do no else. So at great risk to my external digits I drug out my old circular saw and dutifully cut the table in half. This was just the start of an experience that will serve as the basis of my new reality show – DIY or Die Trying. I purchased wood to make stands for the new tables and since I was not too adept at woodworking I also purchased a power router, a table saw, a reciprocal saw, and various other power tools that to me seemed to be designed for the maximum damage that they might do to ones body.

Although I didn’t know what I was doing I persevered. I slapped mud on drywall. Routed my own baseboards from a product know in home improvement circles as MDF (medium density fiberboard). I even did something I have always been afraid of – doing electrical wiring. I added spotlights over each kids work area and I must say that I am proud of myself; no sparks or fires and I never got shocked once. Of course I take all precautions when working with electricity. I put on rubber gloves and rubber boots. I turned off the main power supply switch and actually pulled the circuit breaker for the rec room. When it come to amps and volts I try to prepare for watt ever comes up. (Pardon the pun).

Despite all the difficulties, expense and risk to life and limb I managed to finish the new museum and we held the grand opening a few days ago. The kids were delighted with their new work place. They quickly sat down and I thought they were each going to create their first masterpiece for The Museum.

The kids creating their first work of art for the new museum. Or so I thought.

Not being one who ever had a sibling rivalry I was a little dismayed by what occurred. Instead of creating their first work of art for display each kid staked their claim to the space available. My grandson made a sign stating that his area was know as “Alec’s Art Room”. Not to be outdone my granddaughter quickly made a sign with an arrow showing one and all where “Siena’s Art Table” was.

All in all rebuilding the museum was quite an experience. I learned a lot: a lot about myself and a lot about power tools. I was hesitant to even rebuild the rec room. I could have put the insurance money in my pocket and let the rec room go back to just being a basement. My nephew Tim Bishman is a realtor and he said that rebuilding the rec room would be great for the resale value of my house. Thanks a lot Tim! In this depressed housing market I think I am going to have to wait awhile before I get my money out of this rebuild. And I doubt if I will ever get back the value of my labor. But, there is something else to consider and that is the value of nurturing the artist within my grandchildren. Even though neither may make art a career I feel the value of the acquired creativity and appreciation for art just for art’s sake was more than worth it.

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From the Mouths of Children

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In an era where many despair for today’s children an event happens that makes you think that just maybe today’s kids will turn out alright.

Yesterday my son-in-law’s mother passed away after a long bout with cancer. This morning my son-in-law found a note taped to his bedroom door written my my seven year old granddaughter. The note reads: “Dad, I know grandma was your mother. I want u to know this: She will always be in our hearts. Siena.”

I know it is natural for a grandparent to be proud of their grandchildren, but I couldn’t be prouder of my granddaughter than I am now.

As Others See Us

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My six year old grandson did this portrait of me for an assignment in his kindergarten class. Unfortuantely it is a very good image of me.

Ken’s Famous Coney Sauce

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One of the nice things about having been on this earth for a extended period of time is that you get to experience many things. Some good, some bad. Some things that you remember and many things that you forget. Once in a while some thing, experience or event comes along that stays with you and provides many nice memories. One such thing for me was a coney dog. Not just any coney dog mind you. But one that stands out – nonpareil. The ultimate coney dog. A poor man’s gastronomical delight. One that shall never come this way again. For it just wasn’t the taste of that coney dog among coney dogs: it was the aura of a bygone era. Not only did the sauce covered wiener satisfy your appetite but the smells, sounds and sights of the surroundings made the consumption of this king of coney dogs an event to the looked forward to, cherished and remembered for years to come.

In the old days in Canton, Ohio there was an indoor version of a farmer’s market called the Arcade Market in downtown Canton where one could get the freshest produce, meat cut to order on the spot, actually home made items for your home and of course breakfast and lunch. Homer E. Dickes (Dick) a spry wisp of a man who seemed old even when I first met him as a five year old kid owned two eating venues within the old arcade. One was a sit-down counter that served lunch and breakfast. You could get that day’s version of fast food there, eggs made to order, various sandwiches, sodas and shakes, but there was one thing you couldn’t get there: that was a coney dog. For that you had to amble over towards the other side of the market, elbow your way up to a counter where Mr. Dickes himself served up coney dogs par excellence at Dick’s Coney Stand. During the rush at lunch time you some times had to stand five deep and hope you got served in time to get back to work. Lunch, at least in my working years consisted of two coney dogs washed down by an ice cold root beer. Mr. Dickes would take your order, grab his tongs and deftly fish the required number of wieners from  a pot where they had been simmering since early morning. He would then take a bun or buns from a steam warmer and with a quick flick of the wrist using a long soda spoon put the perfect amount of sauce on your dog. An assistant would bring your root beer and take your money while Mr. Dickes methodically waited on the next customer. In the thirty or forty years that I frequented Dick’s Coney Stand I don’t think I ever heard Mr. Dickes saying anything more that “what can I get you”. He was much too busy for chit-chat and I was much to eager to consume my prize dogs to want to converse with him anyhow.

Those days are long gone now, but the memories linger on. The Arcade Market was slowly pushed aside by the newly arrived aseptic and extremely mundane super markets. Dickes Coney Stand held its own against the fast food restaurants that started to populate downtown Canton, but even the popularity of his coneys couldn’t sustain the Arcade Market and keep it open. The Arcade Market finally lost its battle to serve the citizens of Canton and with its closing Dick’s Coney Stand served its last coney dog some time during the eighties. After its closing I along with others would search in vain for a coney that was comparable to Mr. Dickes’. At times I would come across one that was reasonably good but the ambiance – the sights, sounds, and smells of the old Arcade Market could not be replicated from that earlier time.

For years I had heard rumors that someone had the actual recipe for Mr. Dickes’ coney sauce. I was eventually given a copy of said recipe by a friend and eagerly set about making it in my home. What I was given was a pretty standard recipe for coney sauce that didn’t seem to be anything special and indeed my first few attempts at making the coney sauce didn’t produce the hoped for results. It took quite a few tries before I discovered that the secret to a good coney sauce wasn’t in the ingredients but it was in the preparation. Like all things of import the effort put into creating something whether it be a food item, a material object, or even a work of art directly impacts the final result. You can use the finest ingredients, building materials, or artist paints but if individual effort is lacking the finished item will leave something to be desired.

A quick search of the internet revealed a couple of recipes that were attributed to Mr. Dickes. The one that I offer here is one that has been circulated for years by word of mouth and is popularly thought to be the original recipe from Dick’s Coney Sauce. For many years now I have served this sauce to friends and family and it is now known in my somewhat limited circle as Ken’s Famous Coney Sauce. I have freely given out the recipe but invariably I get feedback from others that they just can’t make it the same way as I do. That is probably because of the required amount of effort that it takes to make a truly great coney sauce. It takes a couple hours of intense motivated effort to make the sauce come out right. An effort that most won’t put forth for a lowly wiener.

Ken’s Famous Coney Sauce

2 lbs. lean hamburger (buy the leanest you can get)

1 29oz can tomato puree

1 cup sugar

3 heaping tablespoons of dark chili powder divided

1. Over medium heat combine the tomato puree, sugar and one-half of the chili powder.

2. Brown the hamburger in a large skillet crumbling it with a spatula while cooking. Once the hamburger is browned evenly reduce the heat to medium low. Now comes the first of two critical steps in making a great coney sauce. The hamburger needs to be crumbled into extremely fine particles; the finer the better. Pampered Chef makes a tool for chopping hamburger into fine particles that I use. It requires a lot of effort and time but I cannot overstress the importance of getting the hamburger particles as small as you can. I have been tempted to put the cooked hamburger into a food processor but I am not sure if a food processor is appropriate for use on meat. I usually move small amounts of hamburger to the center of the skillet and take out my frustrations on it with my Pampered Chef tool adding the hamburger to the sauce as I go.

3. While I am cooking the hamburger I slowly add the rest of the chili sauce a little at a time. This is the second of two critical steps. It is important to get a balance between the sweetness of the sugar and the tang of the chili sauce. For a sauce to be truly good you should be able to taste both the sweet and tangy at the same time with neither overpowering the other. You should have a lingering taste of chili with just a hint of sweetness. It is important to frequently taste the sauce as balance is critical. After making it for many years you will be able to pretty much tell how far along the sauce is by the color: the sauce will start to take on a rich dark red color from the dark chili powder when you are nearing completion.

All this sounds like a lot of work and it is, but the outcome is worth it. Rest assured that if you follow my directions you will be treated with a sauce that some day will come to be known as Sam’s, Jane’s or maybe if your name happens to be Richard – Dick’s Famous Coney Sauce.

The Reason For The Season

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T’is the season. But just what is the reason for the season?

Today I went out to purchase a couple of gifts for my grandchildren and my wife. As I wandered dazed and confused through the stores I began to wonder just why was I there among throngs of others all seemingly bent upon shopping til they drop. I thought to myself “do any of these shoppers really know why they are out spending all their money on gifts for others other than because it is the Christmas season“? Chances are they would all give the answer a friend of mine gave when I asked her why she was frantically buying gifts for family and friends. Her answer was – “because it’s Christmas“.

Because it’s Christmas? Just why do we run around mindlessly buying items for others that they most likely don’t need or even want? One reason put forth is that buying for others at Christmas is keeping with the spirit of giving. We give to others because we love them. Would my love for my wife, daughter, and grandchildren be any less if I didn’t buy them gifts at Christmas? We give to the less fortunate at Christmas. Giving to those who are less fortunate is certainly admirable, but why do most of us limit that giving to the Christmas season? What about peace on earth – goodwill towards men? Now there are good reasons for the season! But why limit your desire for peace and goodwill to the Christmas season? What a wonderful world it could be if we lived those thoughts throughout the year.

For most the Christmas season begins the day after Thanksgiving. Infamous Black Friday starts the buying frenzy; a frenzy which for many doesn’t end until Christmas Eve. Santa Clause makes his first official appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. From then on that fat old guy in a red suit is everywhere. My grandchildren had their first visit from Santa at a Christmas party the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Between then and Christmas day those kids will sit on Santa’s knee five or more times before he finally makes his way down their chimney.

I am not a particularly religious person. Most of the time I am not sure there is a god. If there is a god somewhere up there I am not sure he would approve of our conduct during the Christmas season. In keeping with my doubts about god I am not sure that Jesus was the son of god any more than all of us are children of god, but coming from a time past I grew up to believe that Christmas was a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. I do recognize Jesus as a great teacher and philosopher and I am sure if he were alive now and could see what is going on during the Christmas season he would clear the malls of vendors much like he cleared the moneylenders from the temple. Years ago Jesus played a much more significant part of the Christmas season. Our local newspaper ran a daily strip telling the story of the nativity: that strip was discontinued many years ago. Nearly every Christmas tree had a ceramic nativity scene at its base: ours has been packed away for ten or more years. Today only the most religious among us see the Christmas season as a season of hope because of the birth of Jesus Christ. Somewhere along the line Christmas got transformed from a religious holiday into a season of indulgence, gluttony, and gross materialism that is more that a little bewildering.

Now I am not saying that we should discontinue buying gifts for others or having Christmas parties. Nor would I banish Santa Claus. But, I would suggest that in between trips to the mall we each take a moment and ask ourselves just what is the reason for the season.

MY FAVORITE TOY

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At this time of year most children have a favorite toy that they want Santa to bring on Christmas Eve. Some of those toys will only be played with for a day or even just and hour or two and never see the light of day until being sold at mom and dad’s next garage sale. Other toys will become a cherished favorite to provide hours of pleasure and memories for years to come. As each child grows up one toy above all others will become their favorite. For some it may be a certain doll, a toy six gun and holster, or that first two-wheel bicycle. The memory of that favorite toy will stay with a person well into adulthood and provide many fond memories.

My favorite toy of all time wasn’t actually a toy at all. It was a humongous cardboard box that a neighbor’s new refrigerator came in. As a boy of seven growing up with few toys I was left to improvise for my own entertainment. That meant using my imagination and when I saw that gigantic box sitting outside my neighbor’s house I immediately saw many possibilities for it and knew I just had to have it and was delighted when my neighbor gave it to me.

That box was quite a lot bigger than me and as I struggled to drag it home I started forming plans for my great find. The fist thing I did was to turn it into a fort. A fort that I would defend against marauding pirates. Using my pocket knife I cut a flap in one side where I could fire salvos from my imaginary canon at those pesky pirates; no way they were going to conquer Ft. Ken. When the other kids in the neighborhood saw how much fun I was having in my fort it quickly became a clubhouse for all the neighbor kids. For awhile I was the most popular kid in the neighborhood. I was the club president naturally since it was my clubhouse. I would pass judgment on prospective members, no one was admitted without my say-so. I was also the keeper of the secret password which each member had to say before being admitted to the clubhouse.

But most of all this spacious brown mansion was my refuge and my sanctuary where I could get away from what at that time was not a pleasant world for me. When alone in the confines of my treasured abode I was at peace. Nothing in the outside world could bother me. Even though my sanctuary was made of compressed paper I was safe inside.

The power of a child’s imagination can turn the most ordinary things into things of pleasure. A simple stick becomes a sword to banish evil knights. A piece of clothes line becomes a lariat to herd little doggies. Sometimes less really does become more when our imaginations are set free to explore possibilities. Today’s toys with few exceptions offer children a much of a chance to use their imagination. They stare blankly into video screens oblivious to the world around them. Not using their imaginations to take them to wondrous places to explore or take them on exciting adventures.

I believe that the key to happiness and personal fulfillment comes from within and not from material objects. That is why I always tried to provide puzzles, books, arts and crafts for first my daughter and then my grandchildren. If I could I would give my grandchildren a similar box this Christmas but I am sure my family would have me committed. But, if my grandchildren would ever have a toy that wasn’t really a toy which gave them the chance to explore and expand their imaginations like I did; maybe, just maybe they too might look back some sixty years later and fondly remember their favorite toy that wasn’t really a toy at all.

Coping When Your Spouse Has Breast Cancer

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At one time if you looked up Type A Personality in the dictionary you would find my picture. To say that I was a ball of stress was to put it mildly. However, I knew that living with too much stress was not good for me and I set out to overcome stress and my reactions to it. In an effort to overcome stress, mellow out and basically improve myself as a human being I read every self-help book I could get my hands on. I read everything from Dale Carnegie to Dr. Wayne Dyer. As I poured over these books and tried everything imaginable I came to the realization that was I was getting really stressed trying to overcome stress itself. Oh, there was some improvement but not as much as I wanted; not until I came across a book entitled Wherever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn . First published in 1994 Wherever You Go There You Are has made a big change in my life and it may literally have saved my life: more about that in a bit.

I have probably read the book somewhere near twenty times or more since I first read it in the mid-nineties. At first glance Wherever You Go There You Are seems like a book about meditation. Indeed, a large part of the book is taken up with meditation practices and instructions on how to meditate. But, meditation is just a tool that is used to bring about the state of mindfulness. Mindfulness can be a difficult concept to grasp and can be confused with the practices of Zen, Buddhism, and Taoism. There are similarities to those but mindfulness is in itself not a religious or moral philosophy. At its most basic, mindfulness is being acutely aware of your actions, yourself, your surroundings, your thoughts and your reactions to those thoughts. Once you get the hang of it, it is as though you are an observer; not only of yourself and things around you but also of your thoughts and actions. Those of you who are or were athletes can liken it to being in “the zone”. It is a state of non-doing; effortless effort; a state where there is no you or action being performed by you, it is as though all is one and any activity you are engaged in is unfolding by itself and while you are engaged in that activity you are somehow disengaged and have become an observer of the unfolding of that activity. I wasn’t much of an athlete but I do remember being in the zone during one particular basketball game in high school and later in life I remember being in the zone several times while playing golf, especially during the two holes-in-one I had.

The most important thing in cultivating mindfulness is making use of your breath to center yourself during times of great stress. According to the general adaptation syndrome one’s first reaction to a period of great stress is to either fight or flee. Mindfulness avoids both reactions by centering yourself on your breath and becoming an observer of what is happening and thereby avoiding what could be a catastrophic reaction to times of great stress. In the interest of brevity I will leave it to those of you who may be more interested in mindfulness to pick up a copy of Wherever You Go There You Are and decide for themselves whether or not it mindfulness might help them.

Now on to how mindfulness might actually have saved my life; if not my life it certainly may have saved my sanity.

In October of 2006 my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. One thing was apparent from the start: no matter how hard I wanted to help, no matter how much I cared; when someone you love develops cancer of any form there is really nothing that you can do. Sure, you can try to comfort that person. You can be there for the person you love but the reality is that each person who gets a cancer of any form must face it in his or hers own way.

After the diagnosis my wife underwent a surgery procedure called a lumpectomy where the tumor was removed along with some lymph nodes. While she recovered from the surgery we waited for the results of the biopsy of the tumor. A few weeks after the surgery I accompanied my wife to her first visit to the oncologist. There we received the news that my wife’s form of cancer was a particularly aggressive form with a high rate of recurrence. She also test positive and very high for something called the HER2 receptor. The oncologist determined that my wife’s treatment needed to be as aggressive as the cancer and my wife would have to undergo a year of treatment to combat the cancer. The oncologist prescribed a series of radiation treatments, along with several chemotherapy drugs and an antibody drug to combat the HER2 receptor. On somewhat of a bright note her surgeon had done a good job in removing the cancer and the removed lymph nodes showed no sign of the cancer having spread.

If going to a cancer center in the hospital wasn’t bad enough the long walk down the hallway to the cancer center makes it all the worse. Once you reach the end of the hallway you enter the room where patients are waiting to receive their radiation treatment. It is pretty much a standard waiting room with the exception that it is packed wall to wall with people, all with cancer except for the few family members present. As I waited for my wife to get her radiation treatment I would sometimes talk to other patients awaiting treatment. Some were upbeat and open about their conditions. Others were resigned to having cancer and having to get the treatments that may or may not save their lives. There was one common thread: that was the feelings of the family members that were with the patients. For the most part the family members seemed to be at least emotionally suffering from the same mental state – one of helplessness. All would have gladly traded places with their loved one. But that wasn’t possible.

The treatment room at the oncology clinic was particularly depressing – at least to me. The room was one large open area with approximately 30 extremely uncomfortable recliners where the patients received their chemotherapy. The chairs were quite close to each other and there was no separation of any kind between patients. It was not uncommon to look across the aisle to see a patient being stuck with an IV needle and being hooked up to various sized bags containing the drugs prescribed for them. Being a bit squeamish I usually turned my eyes when a patient would be connected to their IV’s. The ones I found most disturbing were when a patient had to receive his or hers chemo via a port surgically installed in them or receive their chemo treatment via a needle in their abdomen.

My wife’s initial chemotherapy consisted of being connected to three IV bags which at the start took up to four hours to empty into her veins. My wife was able to take her treatments in stride and I as the dutiful husband went to her treatments with her. But, I at times felt that I was letting her down; not being able to do anything to make her chemotherapy more bearable.

The weekly treatments were interspersed with visits to her oncologist, follow ups with the surgeon and visits to various departments of the hospital for this test and that test. One of those tests was a thing called a MUGA scan (Multiple Gated Acquisition scan).In this procedure we had to once again descend into the bowels of the hospital and wind our ways through the labyrinths of the hallways that connect the outside world to the radiation center of the hospital. This test could not have been fun for my wife. She first had to have blood drawn. The blood was then treated with a radioactive material and was then injected back into her. Afterwards she had to lay perfectly still on a cold table so an overhead camera could check the condition of her heart. It seems as though one of the drugs she was being given had a history of possible heart damage and she had to have this scan every three months.

The weekly chemotherapy and intermittent tests were our routine for almost a year. My wife’s blood work showed that the chemotherapy was apparently working well and by October of 2007 we were looking forward to the end of her treatments late in December. Things were looking so good that she decided to buy a new car in October. God knows she deserved it. However she only got to drive it for a couple of weeks.

On October 27, 2007 my wife had an appointment with her primary care physician. Since it was just a standard checkup not related to her cancer treatments I decided not to go with her and stayed home. About two hours later I got a call from her. She said that she had fallen in her doctor’s parking lot and needed to go to stat care. I got in my car and drove to the doctor’s office which was only about five minutes away. When I got there my wife was sitting on the sidewalk with a sheet of paper in her hand. I asked what had happened and how badly she was hurt. She told me that she had slipped and fallen on a defective wheelchair ramp at her doctor’s office. She said that she had lain there for some time and when no one came by to help her she drug herself into her doctor’s office where her doctor examined her and gave her an order to have x-rays taken at stat care. To this day I am still mad as hell at her doctor for not calling the rescue squad and having her taken to the emergency room. Just looking at her with various cuts and bruises as well has what looked to be a broken foot should have warranted an ambulance ride to the emergency room. When I got her to stat care they did take her right in, checked her out and took x-rays. This is where the story gets me a little more upset. The x-rays showed that she did have a broken foot as well as a fractured shoulder bone and a dislocated shoulder. Instead of treating her or sending her to the hospital they gave her another piece of paper and told her to go to an orthopedic doctor. Incensed I drove her to Omni Orthopedics where her broken foot was put in a cast and her shoulder was popped back into place. I found a sympathetic ear in the director of Omni Orthopedics and he called the stat care facility and chewed them out for letting my wife leave in her condition. If there was ever a day from hell that was it.

A couple of days later it was time for her cancer treatment. This time the treatment was to be different. I had to wheel her into the clinic and help her into the chair for her treatment. If things weren’t bad enough for my wife when the nurse tried to connect my wife to the IV she couldn’t find a vein for the needle. Her veins had been shrinking from the numerous IV’s that she had to endure. Her veins were barely visible and so small that the nurse couldn’t get a needle in even using an ultra fine hypodermic needle. Two, three, four times the nurse tried – to no avail. Another nurse came and tried several times more. As I watched I wanted to cry out – “Here use my veins. Mine are large and getting a needle in them is no problem.” But no; following the principal of helplessness that governs the behavior of family members – no substitutions are allowed. Finally after what seemed to be eight or nine tries the nurse was able to get an IV into my wife and she was able to receive her treatment.

Later that evening after my wife had gone to bed I took my shower and sat down in the living room to relax a little. As I sat in the darkness a strange feeling came over me. At first it just seemed like a little nervousness but then the feeling took an unexpected turn. Slowly but intensely I began to feel as though all emotion was being drained from me. It seemed as though my very being was being sucked out of my body. I remember thinking “so this is what a nervous breakdown feels like.” It was then that I remembered the practice of mindfulness that I had been working on. With what I had left in me I began to concentrate on my breathing. Just watching and experiencing my breath as it went in and out. I went into the mode of an observer, watching what was going on with my body and my emotions. No panic. No resistance. Just watching. Observing without emotion. Slowly the feeling of being drained subsided. Still watching my breath, normalcy started to return. It seemed like a lifetime but it probably only lasted a few minutes. I am sure that had I panicked and given into the fight or flee response of the general adaptation syndrome I might possibly not have made it through that episode and might actually have had a nervous breakdown.

About two months later after my wife’s treatments for cancer had finished and she was about to start physical therapy for her injuries from her fall she caught pneumonia and spent a week in the hospital. One evening after a particularly stressful day trying to deal with an hospitalist doctor with an attitude I headed home. That night as I sat in my chair the feeling of my very essence wanting to leave my body came back again. But this time I recognized what was happening and was able to deal with it much more easily. Early on I concentrated on my breath and went into observer mode. This time the feeling was much less intense and didn’t last nearly as long.

Shortly after my wife had regained her health. My mother was diagnosed with a form of leukemia that would eventually take her life. During this time another minor occurrence of this feeling returned, (See my blog Watching Momma Die). From the time my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer and the death of my mother was a period of almost three years. Three years of hell that I don’t think I could have coped with had it not been for Jon Kabat-Zinn’s book.

Wherever You Go, There You Are has changed the way I deal with difficulties in life both big and small. No longer do I throw wrenches against the wall when I can’t fix something. Nor do I curse and swear anymore while trying to make sense of the directions that came with my new gas grill. (Those inscrutable little Chinese, print equally inscrutable owner’s manual). I can now take almost anything with equanimity.

Even such a calamitous event as the July 19th deluge that hit our area and backed up the sanitary sewer into my basement didn’t cause me to lose control of myself. As my recreation room turned into a pool of sewer water I simply focused on my breath and became a nonjudgmental observer. I looked at the sewage coming up through my floor drain and calmly observed it without letting it control me. Trouble was I was so wrapped up in being an observer that I didn’t observe that water the was now up to my ankles and it was then that I remembered the electricity was still on. Sometimes fleeing is still an appropriate response.

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