Sunday, February 28, 2010

Swimming upside down (for me)

For seven-second intervals today, I was swimming on my stomach. If you count someone pulling you through the water as swimming. I'm going to count it.

I started off with five pool lengths of swimming without my float vest. I did pretty good, but I still lose it some and collapse. I doubt I'd drown in real life, but I guess I do still need someone with me. Not that they are going anywhere. We have lessons through March to make up for the snow days.

After my back-floating, we walked five pool lengths, then I swam with the vest for a while.

I forgot my goggles today and could have used them as I was being pulled through the water or before that when I was just putting my face in.

The stomach swimming took a lot out of me. I don't know why it was so hard, but it was. I just did a few more laps on my back with the vest and was done.

Everyone thought it was a good lesson and that I'd sleep well. I am sure I will.

Matt and Ted's Excellent Adventure

Six years ago today Claren and I graduated from Canine Companions for Independence as a service team. Here then, published together for the first time, are the e-mails I sent home during the two weeks of class. Dad is Ted. I did take out most of the names.


Day 1
Hey feel free to delete or read. I sent it to as many people as I could think of because my family is soooo sensitive.

I kept waking up all night but am not tired this morning. I fell almost in the huge bathroom but got dad to help before it got ugly and now we go to the dogs.

Well, what stuck with me most from the first day is the dog hair. I was coated in it and seemed to be the only one. It was all right, though. The people in the group are a wide range of ages. Four are service dog
teams (that includes me). Four are parents with their kids; the parents are in charge of commanding the dog but the kids do the rewarding and playing. In the service group, one woman is in her 60s, I’d guess. She
is getting a successor dog and has no assistant. I think I might be the next oldest. Then there is a young woman with MS who still walks some and she has a husband and father assisting her. The fourth team is a
guy getting a successor dog who uses a computer to speak, his mom is with him and she knows Tom Romans, dad’s friend from Buffalo.

The skilled companion teams are a guy and his son who seems fine mentally but has physical issues, a mom and her daughter from Middleburg,Va., who is good friends with Al Neuharth’s daughter. I think both these kids might eventually take over care of the dogs. The other two teams were moms who worked with the dogs to be companions for their kids. One had a two-month baby with her at the training and I only heard it cry once — better than K? The parents have it so tough. They have to show control of the dog but also let the kids be involved. It seems harder than what I am doing.

After lunch, we met the dogs. First we walked with one. Then we walked with another dog at the same time someone else did. Then there were eight of us walking dogs and it is not a huge room. It was fun. I thought the dog I worked with last obeyed me best but one of the others was a little friendlier. We’ll see.

Day 2
Hi, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. These toughie new yorkers are like bring it on.

Whatever, let's see them deal with 110 degree summers.

So I thought I would avoid the coating of dog hair I got on Day 1. And I did until the last practice session, but it was OK.

We started with learning how to correct dogs. The trainers were almost pulling the dogs off their feet to prevent them from doing something. I don’t think any of the students were that hard but we seemed to get the job done. We would walk in circles and the trainers would try to distract the dogs with food or a squeaky toy, we had to correct that and tell them to leave it. I was OK at that. I didn’t do such A good
job of praising the dog for leaving it. I kept forgetting or not noticing, mainly forgetting.

Then we learned commands to make the dog go to either side of us and sit next to us. That was challenging. They tended not to and we had to correct them, though it was probably as much our fault as anyone’s.

After lunch we learned how to motivate The dog and here I definitely need practice. I am not much on the verbal encouragement — the atta boys, keep going, that’s it, etc.

But then we finished the day with two fun commands: Visit and lap. Visit tells the dog to just put its head in your lap. Lap tells it to lie across you more or less. The lap command is why I got more dog hair on me. As I said, though, it was OK because it is a nice feeling to have a dog sitting there on your lap. I was trying to get this dog into my lap and the trainer who was right there said I was correcting too fast and needed to use some m0otivation to get it into my lap. He finally did but it took a lot of doing and I don’t think I was too good at it. the neat thing was that the trainer said to release the dogs and just hang out with them then. Release tells the dog it can do what
it wants within reason. Well it stayed on my lap. Part of the homework was coming up with our own verbal motivators. So I better start to use them better.

Day 3
I think I need a new name, though, because as you will see dad may not have much more to do.

I am sending this early so I can watch Angel tonight, which the d's informed me has been canceled. it is only like the second or third best show on TV.

I had several interesting experiences today, but I think it may be a little boring for dad from here on out. He brought the camera and I guess he will be taking some pics from here on out. But he isn’t
supposed to touch the dog while it and I get acquainted. They also had a pro there taking photos for the CCI newsletter today. On Tuesday we had filled out the preference sheets for dogs and when I cam in
today I had my first choice placed with me. It was nothing really particular that made me choose this dog, but I worked with it a lot and she seemed to respond well and not be too interested in exuberant
praise. I won’t tell the name so as not to jinx it, but she is a yellow lab. She didn’t shed on me, but one of the first commands we did was a “lap,” which tells them to lie on your lap. Her paws were muddy and she left a big paw print on my pants.

We were practicing walking with the dog, then stopping and putting her into a sit. She took her time with the sit, like a lot of the dogs, so we were all working on telling our dog to sit, correcting it and getting a sit. I did it and one of the training was like “good
job, Matt” and gave me a stuffed animal squeaky toy for the dog.

Then we learned how to make the dog walk behind us for narrow hallways or doors. That was tough as you have to go forward but look backward to make sure the dog is still where he is supposed to be. We also learned
to make the dog walk backward away from us and to have it put its front paws up on a desk or the wall or something.

At lunch, the regional director was sitting next to me and another guy, who I pegged for a teen-ager (he is 20, so I wasn’t far off), but the director says something about how we will be back in school with the
dog. I laughed and said, “No, I am old.” He asked how old. I told him 32, and he couldn’t believe it. one of the dads nearby said “Get out!” He said I wondered how he worked at USA TODAY.

Then after lunch, we changed collars. I could put the new one on, but the old one requires you to squeeze it shut and unthread it. too hard for my fingers. But they said they devised one for me ahead of time and it is really ingenious. They just made up one that can slide over the dog’s head. They knew from my interview that the collar was hard, and it was neat that they had put that much thought into me.

We learned how to get the dog to come to you, but they said only do the command when you have a leash, otherwise the dog won’t come. That was hard because they gave me a long leash to use as opposed to the
short one I have been using. The dog didn’t want to stay put until called.

The final command of the day was speak. They told us ahead of time that we would have to get the dog worked up and excited because they don’t speak usually. And so I am trying to be foolish and fun and I feel myself blushing. Worse the dog isn’t even getting excited. The trainer with me is like “your dog is as inhibited as you are.” Eventually with food I got a bark.

I asked one of the trainers if I should be embarrassed that my dog really doesn’t seem to be real exuberant and hard to work up. She suggested that I just need to come out of my shell more and have fun with the dog. but she said not to worry. So I need to have fun,
dammit. It will be hard work.

Day 4
I think I may keep it short today. I am tired and as each day passes, I get a bit more anxious that I will soon have a dog with me at home, work, everywhere. Yikes.

I had better luck getting my dog to bark today once but the second time she needed a bribe. She also did not do so well on the “leave” practice, which is when trainers held food in front of their mouths. She would ignore just until I began to relax and then snap it up
before I could correct her.

She did the jump command well, and the under command, which tells her to go under a table and lie down or crawl on her belly through a small spot. The wait command is for going through doors and she is supposed
to wait for me then follow behind. She seemed to pick that up as the day wore on. And the hurry command. I thought this had them going to the bathroom on command but what you do is go outside and tell the dog hurry. The dog then takes its sweet time toileting.

As I took her out for the first hurry, a trainer notices she was limping. The trainer couldn’t find any reason and did not seem worried. I mean we went on a 10-minute walk through the campus after that so I am sure she felt it was nothing. Nevertheless, I want the trainer to tell me tomorrow it was nothing.

At lunch we kept the dogs for the first time and the trainers told us toileting and watering the dog were now our responsibilities.

Finally, we learned the formal retrieve command — hold and give. Apparently there is also one for play. And she was good at that and was better than most at the bed command, which tells her to get in bed and stay.

Friday is the the first field trip and we keep dogs overnight.

Day 5
Have I really survived 5 days? I am writing this with a dog tethered to my wrist. We went to a hotel to practice getting on and off elevators and then to Costco to wander through the store. We survived but
are dead tired, so that’s all for now.

Maybe I can read for a minute before falling asleep.

Days 6-7
One would think I would be somewhat recovered after a day off. No. We had nothing to do Sunday but couldn't take the dog in public. I am still tired and now I Have another being to worry about. Did she eat
something from the side of the hotel this morning? Does she have ear mites, is that why she is scratching her ear?

She has been pretty good so far although she tends to think she is so smart and anticipates my commands. She sees the open car door and in she jumps. I will have to work on this but I don’t think we are supposed to do much work away from the teachers.

We are starting to get handouts about taking the dog home so it seems like it just might happen. On Saturday, she did great on the tug and push commands, which is how you open and close things. It was pretty
hilarious seeing her push a fridge door closed with her paws.

We have been on three field trips. She is rarely perfect but she gets the job done. One of the instructors stepped over her and kicked her gentle on purpose when she was lying on the floor of Home Depot
to see her reaction. Unfortunately she stood but she normally has been pretty calm and accepting. I will have to get People to trip over her when I am home to see whether she is getting better.

It always causes such a stir at the stores when eight dogs, eight people in chairs and several wheelchair attendants come in. then there are the trainers who try to give the dogs food and scare them by dropping things or sweeping a broom or whatever and there is
also always a camera. Either the PR person or one of the trainers is snapping away.

The PR woman interviewed me Friday. She said she sends press releases to all the local papers, she asked if USA TODAY might be interested. I said sure. That would be interesting. Maybe I get me name in the Herndon Observer.

I am really looking forward to meeting Joe’s friend at graduation. Whenever I mention her, everyone one says, Oh, she’s great. We love her.

So I think we are now all up to date. Monday is some new commands and a trip to a Borders, where we have a chance to talk one on one with a trainer and ask any burning questions. I have many.

Day 8
The last week! I can see the end.

We lost one of the teams today. A fellow and his son dropped out deciding it just wasn’t for them. I don’t know if they will try again with a different dog or just do without a dog. it is sad for them, but the dad told me his son was actually relieved not to have to worry about the dog.

The practices are winding down. Today we just learned how to modify existing commands to create new ones. I will modify the get it command to teach my doggy to get and put dirty laundry in basket. It isn’t easy by any means and it is slow but it seems so cool. One of the trainers told me about a student who trained her dog to get her pages off the printer at work. That would be about the coolest thing in the world if I could teach her that.

After lunch, we went to Jillian’s, an arcade. It wasn’t too busy but there were lots of bells and whistles. She handled it well. She got a little startled once and she had trouble crawling underneath air hockey table but that was because I could not bend over far enough to guide her, I think. She also tended not to stay when I had her rear up onto the air hockey table. Finally, she stayed. It was pretty silly looking. They also posed her with a token tub in her mouth.

Then we went to Borders. They gave us a list of stuff to do and she did it all great. She was supposed to pick up an object of mine like keys but I misread the paper and just knocked a book down for her to get. She did it and didn’t even mangle the book. They tried to pose her in the music section with headphones on but the camera died.

Finally, we had one on one conferences. The trainer said we are doing well. He wants me to correct her faster. He said she tends to do “that blonde thing,” meaning my dog tends to act like a dumb blonde and I
let her get away with it too much. But he answered all my questions, and I am ready to head home and start working her out.

Dad is surviving being bored by helping my classmates. He went out tonight to the drugstore for one of the moms in the hotel who has a cold. This woman has a 7-year-old with a mental disability. She is pregnant and due this summer, and here she is training a dog with a fierce cold. Yikes.

Dad also helped me today by getting a piece of paper I left at the hotel and pushing me in Jillian’s,

Day 9
This was a trying day, sort of.

It started out OK. We went to a mall and tooled around. I used the power chair so we had to teach the dog a new loading procedure. She would jump in the car then up onto the seat. Then we would load the chair and she would leave the seat and get back on the floor. She was amazing at getting this. Although she was not real big on getting down off the seat.

She was good at the mall. Not too scared of anything though the glass elevator seemed to freak her a bit.

But it was back in class that the problem happened that just made me frustrated. A man who apparently exercises and feeds the dogs changed the water at the water cooler during the lecture. I didn’t hear her but
several people around me said my dog was whining. I went to take her out but an instructor whispered that she was whining for the guy and not to worry about it. So I went back to the lecture but the dog was all fired up and I had trouble getting her down again. Then she did lie down but apparently started whining again. An instructor whispered that I should correct her if she whines. I said OK but never heard any. The instructor did and came over and corrected her. I felt bad my dog
is being corrected for something I couldn’t hear. Ughh. And my dog was not real good at turning on and off light switches. She seemed mostly interested in off.

But on the fun side. She retrieved and carried in her mouth a regular hammer for me. She picked it up, held it, jumped into my lap and gave it to me. She is also good at opening and closing things, although not when an instructor is watching.

Things got better when we came home. After dinner I went out with her to let her go to the bathroom. She did and then I was just playing around with her for a bit in the snow (it is snowing here, just a little and not sticking). It was like she was playing freeze tag.
She would leap around, then plop down on the ground and not move … until I hit her or called her name. It was pretty fun. I think she enjoyed it, too. Then we came in and the women behind the front counter were all admiring her for her beauty and talent.

Oh, and at the mall dad unstuck a wheel for a woman in the class who was pushing her child in a stroller. When the wheel got stuck again, the child apparently told her mom, “We need Ted.”

If the worst thing that happens here is I don’t hear some whining I am OK.

Day 11
We passed, at least the access test. I am pretty confident I passed the written final, too. Claren (that’s her name, don’t wear it out) did well on the access test. She ignored the food that was dropped in
front of her face, she remained in control. We were at a mall at 9 a.m. and there was a ridiculous number of walkers there. There was even like a mall walker trainer. It was weird. The only parts when Claren was not perfect was the excited dog distraction. She was supposed to stay seated when a puppy came up and went crazy all over her. Claren was great until the puppy left and then she moved to follow. The other distraction was having someone step over her and drag their foot along her back. She was supposed to stay lying down but moved. She is also not big on glass elevators.

Then we went to a class with a vet who told us about all the horrendous diseases are possible. He was saying bad breath could be a sign of tumor, infection, etc., never once saying the dog might just need a
breath mint. Then we took the written final, which was easier than expected and then I was going to get a trainer to show me how to use the dog to assist in transfers. I had to pass the dog run and Claren pretty much dragged me there. I felt she deserved a break so we played around for a bit. Or she did. It is too muddy for me to do much of anything, but she ran around with some of her classmates and had fun.

Now she is sound asleep at my side and I am trying not to pass out, too. We bathe her tomorrow.

Day 12
We made it, but I am dogless tonight.

I passed the written final and we got our access certificates. I emailed them to work. Now, it is time to get home and work.

We didn’t do much today. I worked on getting Claren to take my credit card, put her paws up on a counter and give it to a store clerk, who then returned the card to Claren who returned it to me. Then she went back and the clerk handed her the bag of stuff I bought. I am not sure when I will use it but it was cool.

We got Claren bathed and took her out to run in the mud for a bit, not the best sequence of events but she’s a dog. We also got a huge list of to- do’s once we get home: Vet check-ups, monthly status reports, etc.

Finally, we turned Claren in for her bachelor party. It was optional, but you have to turn in the dogs at 9 tomorrow morning and then have nothing to do till noon. So it seemed like it might make more sense to
turn her in tonight, let her enjoy a final night of carousing with her buddies and sleep in so I am somewhat coherent for graduation.

I will send a wrapup Sunday.

Graduation and the first day home
We made it. yeah.

The graduation ceremony reminded me of a story M told me years ago about S. He came home from school and asked her if she knew how your throat hurts when you are trying not to cry. As I recall he didn’t
want to cry during a movie. I didn’t want to cry because I wasn’t sure I would be able to stop. It was just all these friendly, welcoming people and this huge gift I was being given. It was really overwhelming.

Claren’s puppy raisers were there and we sat with them and learned that Claren is almost too smart. Mary Ann told us she was sure Claren would go to a young man who worked and kept her busy. I won’t let her down.

They were staying at the same hotel as us and when the front desk found out who their puppy was, the desk-people said, you’re Matt’s puppy’s mom.

And the first night and day were good. I had a nice kennel for her and she went right in. I left the door open and she slept between the bed and the kennel. We got out, enjoyed the day and I gave up my fleece
blanket for her to lie on the couch.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why do you make it so hard?

A co-worker came over to me as I was watching an Olympics video with headphones on. I pulled the headphones down, and she said: "Ice dancing photo?"

I had just fixed a figure skating caption and the video I was watching was about skating, so it didn't seem that odd a question. Only, when I repeated her question back to her, she looked really confused.

Turns out she had said "Nice headphones."

After we established I am deaf, I said: So what do you need? The conversation had taken longer than either of us had planned, and we were both laughing. She was coming over to apologize for some scheduling problem, and she preceded her apology by jokingly asking: "Why do you make it so hard."

I didn't tell her that the exact same thought was in my head, but I was directing the question to Friedreich's ataxia or God.

And to those of you thinking Matt and the Olympians would run out, I offer gold medalist Martina Sablikova of the Czech Republic, who after winning the 5,000 meter speedskating race said: "My legs is kaput." You and me both, Martina. You and me both.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Do they have tea-colored medals?

I am not sure whether to wish the Winter Olympics would end or go on forever. They seem to provide good metaphors for my life.

Today, Bode Miller, a U.S. medal winner already, did not finish the men's downhill race. He had some problems, righted himself, then clipped a gate. He said afterward: "I'm taking more risk than everyone else. ... That's partly why I'm able to get medals. It looks easy when you make it. I did a good job today. I was right there. I was on the edge."

Back to Matt. I also am always right there on the edge: where one little thing upsets the whole apple cart.

I feel like a camel whose back is perpetually in danger of being broken by another straw. If that straw never comes, I go to bed weary and with a sore back but intact. If a straw falls, well, that is bad.

I survived the side trip to the mall to get my glasses straightened, even if the automatic doors didn't work. I survived my wheelchair arm's annoying habit of not closing.

And then I got home and had dinner and was relaxing by watching Lost with a nice cup of tea. Sounds harmless and nice and it was .. until I started coughing and spilling my tea everywhere, even on my laptop, which was sitting nearby. And it was all I could do not to curl up into a fetal position right then and there.

Unlike Bode, though, I take more risk than many others and all it gets me is tea-stained clothes.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

I didn't forget how to swim

After four weeks off -- three for weather and one for a bad car battery -- I got a chance to swim.

I made it almost a whole length of the pool without any floatation device or anyone holding my head. The teacher was so impressed, she called Mom to watch. I then proceeded to suck down a mouthful of water. Totally, Mom's fault!

The rest of the lesson was good, too: walking, swimming with a float vest, exercising my legs.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dear Lindsey Vonn, I fell today too

My fall wasn't as costly as yours. I didn't lose a chance at an Olympic medal. I just lost a minute or two of time.

It also wasn't as public. You fell in front of a big crowd while skiing in the Olympics. I fell in the bathroom while getting ready for work.

One of your skis hooked a gate when you were skiing the slalom. One of my legs jumped when I was transferring from my shower bench to my wheelchair.

We were both OK more or less. I wonder what when through your mind. My thoughts ranged from "Not again" to "I'm fine" to "goddamnmotherfucker."

We both got up afterward, but I wonder if you had the same thought as me: I could just stay here on this floor/snow forever. Probably not.

Your ankle, which you had hurt earlier, throbbed after your fall. I wonder, though, if you are like me. For about 10 minutes after a fall and after I struggle to get up and sit there breathing heavily, adrenaline is pounding through me and I swear I could run around the block ... well, except I can't walk.

Then, of course, I feel like crap. But I am already up by that time, and so I go on. As I am sure you will to.


Monday, February 15, 2010

I am scared of dogs, especially Claren

I am even more certain than ever that I want a bus to take out Claren and me at the same time.

My brother-in-law and sister lost their dog today. Jack had been old for years and he had survived some major surgeries recently, but there was nothing to do this time.

My brother-in-law had Jack since he was a puppy. One of the first times I saw Jack was at my brother-in-law's office. It was draft night for fantasy football, and this was like the first "friend" thing we had done without my sister. It was cool, and one of the things I remember is he had a picture of his dog on his desk but not his girlfriend. My sister tried to rectify that a little later by getting her picture taken with Jack and framing it as a present.

Jack and I weren't exactly close, although he did love my wheelchair because he could always find a crumb of food there. But I loved him because he totally had Claren's back.

Claren and my uncle's dog love to wrestle. Claren has the size, but Sweetpea has the youth. And when they would roll around near Jack, he would just wait till Claren pinned Sweetpea and then Jack would sneak and nip Sweetpea.

It was also pretty amazing how devoted he was to his family. Jack wasn't a walker, so he stayed when his family walked around the block. But you could almost tell where they were just by which way Jack was pointed.

Everything about being part of a service dog team has been better than I can imagine. I am sorry to all the humans I know and love, but Claren saved me from my depression.

I know I won't have to deal with Claren retiring from being service dog, let alone dying, soon, but whenever I am force to think about it, I just want to start looking at bus schedules.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Matt wins the gold

My horseback riding teacher would insist she did not promise that I would go to the Olympics, and of course she would be correct -- she never used the exact word promise.

She just asked if I wanted to ride in the Paralympics in dressage, and when i said sure, she said something like: We'll work toward it. She later said she had been invited to the Beijing Olympics and they were asking about her rider.

I was no doubt naive thinking you could ride in the Paralympics while practicing just once a week. It also did not help that at my first real competition I won two blue ribbons and was invited to ride at a workshop at the U.S. Olympic team headquarters. Or that at my second and last show I came in third, beating an actual Paralympian.

It was also naive to think that my Friedreich's ataxia would not thwart me. Last spring, I was talking to my teacher about riding again after winter, and she had decided I could not ride independently anymore. Not wanting to take a step backward to assisted riding, I hung up my spurs (not that ever used spurs).

I have been thinking about my "Olympic aspirations" as I watch the Winter Olympics.

Unlike other sports, I actually identify with these athletes. Last night before Hannah Kearney skied her gold medal run, my stomach hurt for her. I didn't really feel this way for the Summer Olympians, even though I would not be caught dead in the snow or ice that these athletes embrace.

Then it hit me, after Bob Costas, I think, because he often makes silly grandiose statements, or one of the other announcers said something about how we love these Winter Olympians because they compete in sports that the rest of us find so risky and that they have endurance beyond that of normal people.

Wow, the Winter Olympians are almost as cool as people with disabilities.

Everyone thinks almost anything I do except sitting around watching TV is risky, and my brother probably thinks that is risky because he doesn't have a TV and feels TV rots the brain. Yeah, I know he's silly.

I am not talking about my spring plans to go skydiving, but just everything I do seems to involve risk. Even just rolling my dice in a Parcheesi game threatens to cost me my balance and send me spinning into the board.

And endurance? Forget it, Bob. I deserve a freaking gold medal every day I get out of bed. Today, my legs felt like lead, really painful lead. Not sure why, but I do know it is not unusual for something to hurt. It would be so much easier to stay in bed or at home watching TV.

So what do I want, besides someone to staple Bob Costas' mouth shut?

Well, endorsements for one. I would back Pop-tarts with my life. I also want a two-week TV broadcast about me.

At the very least, I think Hannah Kearney should get a stomach ache when she thinks about me.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Fine! I have a lot of help

Counting our intern, we had four people working today. The only one who made it into the office, as opposed to working remotely, was me, the one person who an;t walk.

Of course, none of their moms made them lunch. None of their dads woke them up. And none of their brothers-in-law lifted them into big SUVs and drove them to and from work.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The same story since fifth grade

In fifth grade, I missed 22 days in the third quarter because of scarlet fever and because afterward I just could not get back on track. Probably no one really believed me except Mom, I just didn't feel right for ages after.

The teacher's note to my parents that accompanied the report card says: "Hopefully Matt will feel more like studying now that spring is here."

I have been thinking about that note a lot recently as snow piles up over the bushes and sidewalks.

I'd feel more like doing anything if spring would come. i know it is early, and I know it will come. But every snowflake makes me more pessimistic about weather.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Friedreich's ataxia and snow don't mix

Snow really makes me want to walk.

I know I can't and should probably not dwell on it, but snow does and I do.

I want to post on Facebook pictures of my snow adventures except they'd basically all be the same, me sitting on a couch.

There was this morning when I went down the ramp and promptly got stuck. I sat there for an hour hoping the sun would free me before I called my sister. I had warned her earlier that I was stuck and it wasn't the only reason I sat there. I was also hoping Claren might run around but she seemed quite content to lie in the snow and chew her ball.

I did consider making this my FB status: "Snow really makes me want to walk." Boy, that would have been a downer, huh? Not to mention awkward, which would have been why I posted it. How do you respond to that comment? Can you "like" it? Can you reply? Can all you do is unfriend me?

But snow does make me want to walk, and because I get snowed in easily, I get plenty of time to think about it.

I want to walk her and see the neighborhood covered in snow. I want to clean the snow off Gram's boxwoods so they don't break like they did after the Christmas snow (and I don't want anyone else to clean them). I want to make a snow angel and get up after. A friend told me after the Christmas snow that I should have. I pointed out that I did want to be able to get up before spring. I want to shovel sidewalks and the driveway and feel the muscle pain that comes with hard work, kind of like the pain that sits in my legs when I do my toe raises.

I don't know which be madder at: the snow or my not walking. Neither, though, are likely to change because I want them to.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Matt, the new patron saint of the disabled

Mom found me one night this week in tears with a bunch of patron saint books on my lap.

Mom had bought these books to show her CCD kids. They have a short story about the saint, a beautiful drawing by this guy and a real short reflection about the saint or the object of his patronage.

I was crying not because of the church's perverse sense of humor at assigning patrons; Hey, Agatha was tortured for her faith by having her breasts cut off; I think we have our patron saint of people with breast cancer. Mom pointed out that Agatha is often pictured with her breasts on a platter.

Another macbre patronage: Lawrence was martyred by being grilled -- let's make him the patron of cooks.

I prefer to think of Lawrence as patron of comedians because in the middle of his grilling he said, Turn me over, I'm done on this side. Some lists do give him this patronage, too.

It was Isidore that started the tears coming and there was no stopping them after that.

The book says that Isidore farmed for a landowner and that his co-workers complained that Isidore's prayers took away from his work. Following up on the complaints, the landowner spied on Isidore and saw him under a tree praying while two angels plowed his field with snow-white oxen.

It doesn't say what landowner's response was, but here's mine: God did all that for someone and still doesn't lift a finger to make me better?

I know I could be worse. I could be homeless or jobless or without the family and friends that make my life so much better.

I know the stories are just legends, maybe, no, probably they didn't happen quite the way they are written, but still ... white oxen?

The tears got worse when I started to read the book called In Times of Need. It has patrons of diseases and conditions. The reflections did me in.

The one accompanying Dymphna (patron of those with mental illnesses) told about a family that brought a friend of theirs to dinner on Sundays. It turns out the friend, who just sat there and ate, lived in a mental facility.

Dymphna also made me think of the family friend who gave me a Dymphna medal. A career navy man who no one would ever think of as a wimp, this friend took the medal off his keyring and gave it to Mom to give to me when I was going through some nonsense.

St. Giles is the patron saint of those with disabilities, although he just got shot in the leg with an arrow. St. Sebastian got shot full of arrows and they didn't even kill hm. But whatever. The reflection with Giles was about a family that had a son who was profoundly disabled and how they cared for him and the things he taught them. That one wrecked me, too.

Now, I felt greedy as well as abandoned. These people, both the saints and the reflection writers and our Navy friend are such good people. What gives me the right to ask for anything in light of their struggles?

But right or not, I still want to be cured. I want to walk.

P.S. If elected patron saint of the disabled, I promise to work some cures.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Dear Lost writers, think about wheelchairs

I know it is just TV, but isn't Lost supposed to be the smartest show on television?

Perhaps, if the writers want to keep this reputation, they will shy away from wheelchairs in the future. (I suppose I have a spoiler or two in here, nothing dramatic.)

Don't get me wrong. Some of it is quite believable. More times than I can count I have been just like Locke: sitting there as person after person exited the plane until the plane was empty and they could bring in the aisle chair. It totally sucks, just like Locke's expressions said.

But why is Locke in a crappy airport chair? Surely, a man who cannot walk has his own chair?

And when he met Jack in the airport, I wanted to turn it off. (Not really,I like Lost, just don't think it is the be-all, end-all many fans think it is.)

I know Jack is a spinal surgeon who probably digs playing God, but when he asked Locke "Mind if I ask what happened to you," I was like: Oh, no he didn't.

He didn't just pop THE QUESTION, did he?

Sure, morons ask me, but doctors? .

And he said he only asked because he is a spinal surgeon, but even arrogant doctors know that people go in to wheelchairs for all kinds of reasons. Certainly not just reasons related to the spine.

I think the writers just wanted Jack to tell Locke nothing is irreversible and I hate that they used the wheelchair to get there.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Bailout is as much fun as a barrel of monkeys

President Obama said last week that the bank bailout was about as much fun as a root canal." I wonder how much fun a Matt bailout is?

On the plus side, I rarely give myself large bonuses, though I did just win an eBay auction for nine action figures. I also rarely cost the taxpayer anything.

I suppose I could always just ask my boss and co-worker for assessments of Matt bailouts because both took part separately in one today.

A friend mentioned she was going down to the cafeteria today so I said I'd wander down with her. Until I got down there, I didn't realize that the path out the cafeteria was probably not cleared of the snow. It wasn't.

I figured that as long as I stayed on the pavement, I'd be fine. I still think this is true, and am not quite sure how I managed to get off the path, just one wheel but enough.

I was stuck, but I kept trying to get out by going back and forth as much as possible. I stopped when I saw that I had left a divot in the dirt and covered my wheel with mud. I figured someone in the cafeteria would see me and come help me but no one did.

It was then that I called my co-worker. I couldn't hear him really but I did hear "sure" when I asked him for a push. I was playing with my phone wondering who to call next when he showed up. He said that he came down and looked out the cafeteria window and didn't see me, which explains the lack of help from there, so he went to the guard station and asked them if they saw me on one of their screens.

This raises a somewhat uncomfy question. Did the guard not notice the dude in the chair just not moving? Or did they notice and think, "Oh cool"? I am kidding. The guard staff is a nice group, quite good to me.

That was how he found me and easily helped me back on the track and I went right in.

I snatched a few newspapers from a recycling bin and put them under my wheel while I ate. That let the sopping wet mud drip off and what did not drip off at least dried a bit.

I then asked my boss if he had one of those plastic knives that come in utensil packs. He did and brought it over. He saw my gross wheel and I just said I was going to scrape most off.

He replied, I could probably wipe most of that off. And that is what he did.

After the bank bailout, banks made millions. After a Matt bailout, I am left feeling exhausted, embarrassed, grateful, touched by grace, you name it. I wouldn't mind a few bucks instead.

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