Saturday, December 31, 2011

My way of thinking/ 2011 Reflections Part 3

Parts 1 & 2 covered my jump into the world of technology and social media, my horrific car accident, Jon's brush with death, and our ultimate triumph over it all. 
By September everything was coming up roses.  I had begun this blog and was having a great time writing and meeting fellow bloggers.  Our home was beautiful, our dogs were healthy and happy.  What more could any man want?  I know.  How about one more phone upgrade?  Sure.  Why not?  I bought an android phone with Motorola Blur (whatever that is).  My technological transformation was complete.  I had no idea how to use the thing but this wasn't anything new.  I just called those poor phone company reps every day til I had the darn thing under control.  When I began, I didn't know what an app was.  I had heard the term on TV commercials but I really didn't know how all that worked.  I am proud to say that I know now.

The most significant change for me in 2011 was not my new found technology however, although it was technology that allowed it to happen.  It was my reconnection and new connection with friends.  Sandy Spurlock is the perfect example of a reconnection if ever there was one.  We met at age 15 in 1970 during a church sponsored trip to an orphanage in Mexico.  While other kids were enjoying Spring Break at the beach, we were building a road.  We were kindred spirits then.  We took a 40 year break so that she could raise 5 sons and I could run off to the world of show biz.  Then we came back together as if we had never been apart.  What a wonderful friendship we have today all because of technology and facebook.

An example of a new connection is my new friend, Theresa Campbell.  We met on Facebook by luck.  Turns out that, not only did we go to High School together without crossing paths, but she lives nearby.  Not a day goes by now that we don't communicate by one means or another.  Theresa is the queen of texting.  We have also been able to get together in person.  How great is that.

There is a line from the musical "The Fantasticks" by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt that seems appropriate for the year I had in 2011.
"There is a curious paradox that no one can explain,
Who understands the secret of the reaping of the grain,
Who understands why spring is born out of winter's laboring pain,
Or why we all must die a bit before we grow again."

Appropriate and true words.  The year was one of growth for me.  I didn't have to change to grow.  I simply learned that my principles of love and positive thinking can get you through the best of times and the worst of times.  The incredible power and positive energy created by love can accomplish almost anything.

One more thing happened fairly recently that affected me on a very deep level.  My love of dogs should be well known by now.  If not, welcome new reader!  Recently Theresa lost her 18 year old pup.  Maynard was a good boy and a beloved companion.  I grieved with Theresa as she said goodbye.  Then just 10 days or so later, my blogging pal Heidi Alberti lost her 6 year old companion, Atticus after a protracted illness.  Atticus was more than a dog to Heidi and to those of us who got to know him.  He was an idea, an ideal if you will.  He was the voice of reason on Heidi's blog.  He was a living, breathing embodiment of all that is right with our world and he wasn't afraid to speak out if something seemed wrong.  We all miss him every day.

Ok.  As another blogging pal, Franziska San Pedro so wisely said, "wrap it up".  So that is what I'll do.  It has been a remarkable adventure this 2011.  Challenges and rewards.  Quite a balance I would say.  I am ready to face the unknown future with you in 2012.  Thanks so much for joining me on this journey.

                                          Peace and Love,



Friday, December 30, 2011

My way of thinking/ 2011 Reflections Part 2

Part 1 ended after I had been hit by a car and come home from the hospital.  I took two pain pills and went to sleep. 

The morning after the accident I awoke to a new world of pain.  Everything hurt, my toes, every muscle, my head, even my hair felt like it hurt.  I had been warned that I had suffered a concussion and that the effects could take awhile to manifest themselves.  I thought that was why my head felt like it was going to explode.  But no.  That wasn't it.  The effects from the concussion waited two more days to rear their ugly head.  When the concussion stuff began happening, the pain seemed bearable in comparison.  I was dizzy even flat on my back.  I threw up several dozen times.  Every time I vommited I had to move and every movement was like being hit with a sledge hammer.  It lasted a full 24 hours and then suddenly that part of my misery just stopped.  After that the pain seemed easier to take.  I just tried not to move.

Without going on about all that, I also had to begin the process of filing an insurance claim, although it was about a month before I could begin to deal with all that.  I had to get the police report, my hospital records, an estimate for damages to the chair.  Yeh, like I was in any shape to do all that.  A month after the accident I was no longer a giant bandage.  I was now a giant scab.  Every move pulled on the scabs and sometimes opened them back up.  But, somehow, with lots of help from Jon, we got all the required documents together and filed our claim. 

There was some frustration involved in dealing with the insurance people, but we began getting money right away.  It wasn't going to be a fortune (you have to be permanently disabled or disfigured for the big bucks) but it was going to be enough for us to do some serious redecorating.  First thing was a laptop and a big 42" HDTV.  Now I was beginning to truly join the current century.  I had a lot of learning to do, but being in bed most of the time, it gave me something to do.

By early July I was functioning fairly normally, though I was no longer standing or walking at all.  That would have to wait for the healing to be complete and for me to get back some kind of mental stability.  I was terrified of leaving the apartment without Jon.  Even with him I panicked if we had to cross a street.  Crosswalks no longer afforded me any sense of safety.  I had to wait until every car had come to a complete stop in both directions before venturing into the crosswalk.  We often missed lights altogether while I went through this process.  Jon demonstrated uncommon patience during this period.

By mid July things were better.  I received my full settlement and we were preparing to begin a major renovation of our apartment.  That had to be put on hold when on July 19th Jon had a major seizure and stopped breathing.  Amazing how my own physical problems were suddenly forgotten.  In between dialing 911 and propelling myself to his side I began mouth to mouth while awaiting the paramedics.  They were here in two minutes (if two people ever needed to live across the street from a hospital...).  It seemed like two hours to me.  Jon was rushed to the ER, unconscious and not breathing on his own.  I followed immediately.  Amazingly I forgot to be afraid crossing the street.  I was far more terrified than worrying about a little thing like a car.  Arriving at the ER I found Jon in a coma and on a respirator.  I went into a dull kind of shock.  I was too scared to feel anything except panic.

Jon was moved to Intensive Care that night and remained in a coma for eight horror filled days.  He began breathing on his own on the seventh day but he was far from out of the woods.  All of this had been caused by a bleeding ulcer that ended up requiring two emergency surgeries and eight units of blood.  It was touch and go for three long weeks during which time I had to get over my own fears and take care of evrything on my own.  The dogs couldn't feed or walk themselves.  I relied on my strong belief in the power that comes with remaining both calm inside and positive.  I also relied on the remarkable support of my dear friends.  Facebook became a constant source of encouragement.  How had I lived without it?

Love is the greatest power the Universe has supplied for us to take advantage of whenever we need it"s strength.  Miraculously, after three very challenging weeks, I brought Jon home.  He healed faster than anyone anticipated.  By the end of August we were ready to go shopping for new furniture and paint etc.  We hired a painter and arranged to take the dogs to a motel for a couple of days while our home was transformed.  I know that I was over the moon happy.  Not only was my partner, my best friend, ok, but our lives were being transformed in a significant way materially and spiritually.

I will leave it there for today.  I promise I will wrap up this eventful year tomorrow as we end the year for real.

                                                                 Peace and Love,




Thursday, December 29, 2011

Austin's Thoughts: my way of thinking/2011 Reflections Part 1

 At this time of year it is certainly appropriate to reflect on all the events, both the good and the bad, that have come my way during the past year.  This may take more than one post as it has been one hell of a year.

2011 started off like many of the past few years.  Everything was pretty much status quo.  No major changes were anticipated.  I was still recovering from a fractured hip, but that was coming along nicely.  The one big change had been my power wheelchair.  After a very long time of being virtually home bound, I was suddenly able to go out into the world on my own.  What a relief for both Jon and me, and the dogs as well.  I could take them on walks again and they got used to the chair right away.  They were so happy to have their daddy back.  Yes, 2011 looked promising.

The first change of the year was getting a cell phone.  I didn't need one while being home all the time but , now that I was out and about, I felt I needed one for safety only.  I started with the most minimal of calling plans and bought a phone with minimal features.  That didn't last long.  I didn't have an email address and needed one so I traded the phone in on a model with Internet capabilities, upgraded my service plan and I was back in the real world.  Or so I thought.  Then I thought I'd try out this thing called Facebook.  Well, little did I know, my life suddenly changed forever.

Right away I began reconnecting with friends I hadn't seen or heard from in 40 years.  They happily guided me through the new world of social media.  With many of my old chums it was as if it had only been a matter of weeks since we last spoke, certainly not 40 years.  As I went along I began to cultivate new friendships as well.  Some of those new friendships have been amazing in their immediate intensity.  Very quickly I was experiencing an abundance of new found love.  Not that I didn't have love in my life, but I admit to being a love hog.  There's always room for more.

Over the first few months of the year, I kept enjoying my new found freedoms, both physical and social, and began physical therapy to relearn how to walk.  Over my year plus of inactivity my muscles had atrophied to the point where I could no longer stand, much less walk.  It didn't take long though before I was beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  I was at least able to walk with the aid of a walker, even if it was limited to very short distances (like from a chair to the bathroom) but I was pleased with the progress.

On April 16th I had to go across the street to the hospital pharmacy to pick up a prescription.  Of course I had to use the power chair for that.  I took the long way so I didn't have to cross the busy street we live on without a crosswalk.  It is a few blocks out of the way, but better safe than sorry.  The crosswalk I chose to use was one of those where you press the button and a flashing yellow light warns traffic that someone is about to cross the street.  I waited until cars had stopped going the opposite direction and headed on into the crosswalk.  I saw a car coming my way but it was quite a ways up the street.  After all, the light was flashing so I assumed the car would see it and me.  Well, not this time.  The driver had been distracted and he didn't see me or the light.  For a moment I thought I could outrun him when it became apparent that he wasn't going to stop.  Wrong.  I had enough time to think "oh shit" and then I went flying.  No life flashing before my eyes.  No nothing.  The next thing I knew I was on the ground, my glasses broken, my cell phone in front of me (it must have been in my hand) and the driver of the car was hysterically asking if I was all right.  I saw that my chair was still upright, although now facing in the opposite direction to the way I was going.  My first thought was that I needed to get back into my chair.  The driver helped me do that and I proceeded the rest of the way across the street.  That fete accomplished, it dawned on me that my broken glasses and my phone were still in the street.  The driver ran back and fetched them for me.  I was just outside the hospital emergency room.  What luck.  My next job was to call my partner, Jon.  I calmly told him what had happened as two nurses from the hospital ran up to assist.  I knew I was on my way to emergency although, at that point, I was dazed and confused and wasn't quite sure why they were insisting that I go.

It wasn't until I climbed onto a gurney inside the ER that I saw the blood.  I still didn't feel any pain.  I remember thinking what a pretty color of red my blood was.  As if my blood was somehow different from everyone else's.  After xrays, CT scans, and who knows what, it was determined that I hadn't broken any bones so they patched me up.  I was one giant bandage as I saw it.  After only 3 hours they let me go home.  Jon had come and gone by then so I got back in my chair (barely damaged) and drove myself home.

Once safely home and in bed I cried for a moment.  I realized how close to death I had just come and for that moment I felt more vulnerable than I had ever felt before.  But the moment was brief.  I took some pain pills that I already had and went to sleep.  Thankfully, I had no idea what was to come next.

I will let that be part one of my years reflections.  I still have a couple of days to bring things up to the present.

                                      Peace and Love,



Wednesday, December 21, 2011

My way of thinking/ Charlie and his sweater

Charlie, his blue sweater, and his ball.  I would never have imagined writing such a post, but this strikes me as funny!  When Charlie entered our lives more than five years ago, he was an angry little boy.  He pretty much hated people, except for us, and he hated dogs, except for Roxy.  What to do?

I decided to try love therapy.  That means that I didn't try to teach him commands.  Instead I gave him all the love I had to give.  He got pets, kisses, and learned to accept belly rubs.  He slowly was introduced to other people.  Then to other dogs.  Now Charlie has never met a person or another dog he doesn't like. He learned to love by being loved.  Imazing how that works.

Ok. Now Charlie has fallen in love with his blue sweater.  He has toys but prefers his tennis ball.  He admires himself in the store windows on his walks.  Don't try to remove his sweater if you value your hand.  I made him loving but he has developed his own sense of vanity.  His love wakes me in the morning.  He knows that sunrise is important so he feels responsible for getting me up, even if he thinks sunrise is at 3am.  He lives a life of joy and love.  I will take some credit.  Much credit to Jon and Roxy.  Most credit to the power of love!

Just wanted to remind my friends of the power of love.  What we give is what we tend to receive.  Just don't forget that if you give someone a ball and a blue sweater, don't expect to get it back!

                                          Peace and Love,


Sunday, December 18, 2011

My way of thinking/ Atticus part 2

I always like to add a picture because one of the most accomplished bloggers I am privileged to know, Sherryl Perry says to grab 'em in the first 3 seconds.  If this photo didn't grab you, well I question your taste.  Just being funny.  Don't think I was really questioning your taste!

What I am actually writing about today is the book, "To Kill a Mockingbird".  I just reread it in honor of my friend, Heidi and her beloved companion, Atticus.

The book is seen through the eyes of a child, a little girl named Scout.  Her father is an attorney named Atticus Finch.  While playing and being a child, she sees her daddy fight for social justice.  It is a beautiful story that is far too complex for my little blog.  If you haven't read it, rent the movie.  As Atticus, Gregory Peck gives a lesson in acting.

Why am I telling you all this?  Glad you asked.  The virtues of Atticus Finch remanifested themselves in the voice of a puppy dog with the same name.  He too believed in social justice.  He too loved his family.  He too was willing to fight for what he knew to be right.  Some would say that the voice of Atticus was silenced when he transitioned to a broader plane.  I would say that he just expanded the realm of his being!

Atti didn't seem to mind playing dress up for his mama, Heidi.  My boy, Charlie was the last I thought would enjoy fashion.  Since Atticus moved on, I dare you to try removing Charlie's blue sweater.  It is an amazing world, huh?  Although I have grieved this past week in a way that has truly surprised me,  I have experienced love.  Lots and lots of love from remarkable people.

                                    Peace and Love,


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My way of thinking/ Atticus

I don't have a picture to share of my pup friend Atticus.  I do have many of my own kids, Roxy and Charlie, so I will use this picture to demonstrate the love that dogs share with us and one another.

Atticus left this physical plane last night in his mama's arms.  Heidi loved him with all her heart and let that be known through her wonderful blog, "Atticus Uncensored".  She dressed him up in crazy outfits and gave us all smiles.  But, far more importantly, she used the voice of Atticus to remind us of issues like social justice, unconditional love, war and peace.  Only a dog can truly convey these important topics.  We humans are not that smart.

I will love Atti, as I like to call him, as long as I live.  During his illness I sent him my loving energy every day.  Now he is repaying me with his own loving energy.  Anyone who thinks that it's "just a dog" can hang up the phone.  A soul is a soul.  Period.  Exclamation point!

My love for dogs is well known.  My friend, Theresa, lost her beloved dog, Maynard, very recently.  I cried for Maynard.  I cry for Atticus, his mom, his brother, Wilbur, and his kitty sister, Bella.

Atticus leaves a legacy of pure unaduterated love.  Heidi Alberti shared this love with all of us.  We are all the richer for it.  Let us honor that love by sharing it!

                                            Peace and Love,


Monday, December 5, 2011

I love elephants because I see them as being BOLD.  That's how I see myself as well.  I have never made choices that anyone would consider average, or normal.  I march to my own different drummer.  Some people love me for that trait.  Some people can't stand it.  If everyone had their way, we could all be exactly the same.  I am being silly.  Of course, we are not the same.  Our differences are what make us interesting.  Well, RIGHT?  No two elephants are alike.

I have begun a new adventure.  I have started my own blogging group called, "Austin's Bloggers".  Why have I done this?  So glad you asked.  I wanted a bunch of people to join me in writing for the fun of it.  The group that I belonged to before was fantastic!  I made some wonderful friends there.  But five or six friends didn't seem like enough.  I hope that I can encourage more people to tap on their keyboards and share what is on their minds.  I have made a few people angry by making this choice.  I am truly sorry that I made anyone angry.  If you have read any one of my blogs you know that anger isn't on my to do list.  If it's on your list, go right ahead and vent on "Austin's Bloggers".  We can take it!

I have been privileged to meet some wonderful writers on this journey of mine.  Trish Hughes Kreis, Jerry Castaldo, Robert Levithan, Paul Boynton, have all written books I highly recommend.  I am leaving a few out, I know.  I will share them later.  Right now I am just introducing  new place to speak your mind.  Feel free to advertise whatever you want.  Feel free period!  Oh, check out Judy Stone Goldman and her facebook page, "The Reflective Writer".  There still are more great writers.  Atticus Uncensored is a favorite blog.  Now you can tell me who you want ME to know.  That's how I want this to work.  I really do love you all!!!!

                                                            Peace and Love,


Thursday, December 1, 2011

My way of thinking/ Maynard: pet adoption

The picture is of Maynard.  He lived 18 wonderful years in a good home, once he was rescued by my friend,
Theresa.  I never met Maynard but I heard a lot about him.  From all accounts he was a good boy and a blessing to everyone who knew him.  That's my kind of dog.  That's my kind of human too! 

I was deeply moved when Maynard passed away last week.  I have two beautiful rescue dogs myself and I work with shelter dogs on a weekly basis.  It always gets to me when a beloved "pet" (I dislike that word), member of the family leaves behind that empty space for the family who loved him/her.  You see, rescue dogs are special.  People bring them into their lives usually because they are truly wanted, whereas pet shop puppies are often impulse buys, purchased by people who are seduced by the cuteness of a little puppy.  They have no real idea what they're getting into.

My friends who work with me at the local shelter always tell me I am the worst salesman ever!  I guess I am.  I tell people the reality of having a new member of the family.  Dogs will have accidents on your newly cleaned floor.  Whether housebroken or not, their potty schedule doesn't always work with yours.  Dogs throw up unexpectedly.  They will try to let you know, but that isn't always feasible.  They will wake you up in the middle of the night.  They may eat a few of your favorite shoes before they learn that is unacceptable.  They have personalities that are individual just like human beings.  They will have to learn and grow by mimicking their owners characteristics.  Just like a child, it takes time, patience, and love.  Most of all love.  I tell people, if they don't have tons of love to give, I recommend a goldfish.  Even then, I might worry about the goldfish!

Let's say you meet all my criteria.  Yay!  You can have a new member of the family.  BUT, there is one more thing to be aware of.  That new love of your life will grow old.  You will probably outlive them so, are you prepared for the inevitability of their senior years? The vet bills?  The added stress you will go through when you face their decline?  These are things I ask people to think about seriously.  I am not interested in finding temporary homes.  I am only interested in permanent ones.

Okay. Okay.  I KNOW I can get on a soapbox about this subject.  Believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to pet (that word again) adoption.  I believe with all my heart that every living creature is connected to every other living thing.  It is our duty to protect each other according to our natures and our abilities.  I just saw a video of a bird feeding it's dog friend noodles from a pot on the stove that the dog couldn't reach.  Tell me we're not ALL connected.  Love is NOT exclusive to the human race.

Well, maybe this was a bit of a ramble but I hope it makes my point.  We are all responsible for the choices we make, whether it is adopting an animal, or watching out for the people around us, even the people we might not want to see.

                                              Peace and Love,