Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Looking Backwards To Go Downwards

 Hope to publish tomorrow (Jan 9)

Foreward /Disclaimer>  \I am an EXPERT on Parkinson’s - (My Parkinson’s) I’ve been around the PD block enough times to know that with so many different flavors of PD around, - there are few prescriptions for the disease that can be considered universal. However I am confident in saying that you can take the following three gems to the  bank. 1) There   is nothing better than daily exercise.  2) Don’t bet the farm  on a cure in your lifetime - Chip away at that bucket list  while you can. 3) Laughter is therapeutic. Find a good blog from someone who likes to poke fun at PD. And if you don’t think it's funny, laugh anyway. Your body apparently won’t know the difference - and neither will he.

Since 2005 I have been involved in  a bare-knuckled donnybrook with a fellow,  and the altercation shows no sign of waning. Of course I am not the only one to engage this fellow on the playing field. If you frequent any of the  neurodegenerative disease forums you will find that many others  also choose to frame their dealings with him in terms of their favorite sport  I have heard having Deep  Brain Stimulation done compared to pulling the goalie in hockey, another comparison I have seen is to throwing a Hail Mary pass in football.  Yet another described Parkinson's having some good body shots, but that recently he had managed to take a few rounds.

In fact  it is common in Degenerative disease communities, whether expressed in sporting terms or not - to consider a tie, a win. (Ie, if one managed to finish a 6 month period in the same condition as they started that would be considered a success. Apparently I am not the only one who imagines that he plays for the Bad News Bears, that he unfortunately is locked into a long-term contract - but I confess that I am likely the only one who fantasizes that after a long spell of losses, my Neurologist implements the newly instituted Neurodegenerative Mercy Ruthe, where after incurring a number of losses due to PD, my Neurologist is required to take me out to Dairy Queen for Ice Cream following my appointment.

And yes, that is quite the speculative observation that the job of a Neurologist can be contrasted with coaching the Bad News Bears. I suppose that you are referring to the low expectations of both scenarios. I can see how a job with such low expectations would be so attractive to a person like you that thrives on low expectations.  

    Also, your observation that only monitoring two practise's per year would seem rather light on the preparation sid, seems right on. I might add that in most leagues, regardless of the sport, that kind of laissez-faire behaviour would net the coach a one-way ticket to the farm team in Schenectady, You are right - the clincher certainly has to  be the fact that they are not required to attend ANY games.

Old Man Parkinson's (OMP) - Scouting Report
Old Man Parkinsonès (OMP)
Being built like a fire hydrant - he’s not quick off the start in fact, he has been known to give away a lead in the early going, but he has a devastating finish. His forte is mind games - he is a master of psychological warfare. He owns some immobilizing physical shots  that target your gait, balance, and memory - but he would much rather see you beat yourself, as he knows the race is won or lost upstairs in the noggin. The truth is he's the classic bully. He loves to intimidate, so the theme of his race strategy is to make you feel small by diminishing your voice, stride, and your handwriting until you feel like a Liliiputian. Sadly, the bastard will not quit until he has you not caring whether you get a medal at all.

The Challenger
So if the old fella  really is that fast  - what business does a mere mortal such has myself have in even lining up beside OMP at the start? I had rowed in University  for four years in 5-seat (the engine room of the boat - where your presence is expected to be felt but not heard (Just think of me as one of the big galoots in the classic Far Side rowing cartoons. While I had never considered myself a “big fish” in the sport I represented Canada twice – once as a U18 in 1979 in Moscow and as a U23 in Copenhagen in 1984.

By sifting through scrapbooks, connecting with former teammates, and jogging my yard-glass fogged memory, I have calculated that I won 51% of my races - In other words, I won the majority of my races but more importantly spent likely more time  in not just a trailing but in a chasing position.This is important because I think that you learn the most not when you are winnng - but when you are ,chasing and "in the hunt".

1) It’s Your Game- You Define The Win 
One of the core skills required of a successful rowing coach is to manage a crew's expectations. 
The part most fraught with peril is when every scrap of intelligence tells you that maybe it's 
time to aim for silver or bronze. A ways back I saw a documentary on Canadian Boxing Icon George 
Chuvalo. Chuvalo speaks of his fight with Ali and how success for him was a fluid concept - in 
flux as the fight went on. A win for him was initially to survive, which then morphed into lasting 18
rounds with Ali, then to not getting knocked down. 

Chuvalo was the master redefining what winning meant. If you have PD you may want to
consider  pondering what the gold might represent to you. Forgive me if it sounds like I’m 
pissing on hope - but if a PD cure is your gold, that’s perfectly fine as long as you ready yourself 
for the possibility of having to settle for silver. 

2) Keep Your Head In The Boat
Looking out of the boat during a race in my opinion is indicative of an athlete that lacks confidence in either themselves, the crew or the race plan. They are racing another crew's race without knowing it. How many times have you caught yourself playing  that short loop of film where you are  looking twenty years ahead? Keep your head in the game! Learn what parts of the Parkinson's sphere you can control,  which ones you can manage, and which ones you can only have a slight effect on

3)Have Fun - It’s The Stupid Stuff You Will Remember
Moe often than not, when I am recalling some memories of the "Golden Years" I am not telling tall tales of epic victories - but rather re-playing stories of idiotic debauchery - like downing 8 plates of spaghetti in our crew's pasta eat-off (I did NOT win), going to the three stooge Film Festivals at the New Yorker Cinema, or having a wrestling party in the back yard (every mattress in the house was outside on the grass). PD has a nasty habit of making doing anything just a little bit harder. Laughter and smiles are crucial for your PD wellbeing.

4) Row Your Own Race
As mentioned at the outset, there are so many different flavours of Parkinson's, that you need to become an expert on all things related to your specific variety. Only you and your crew know thoroughly your crew's strengths and weaknesses. In the same vein, YOU are are Master of Your PD Domain.  Be the architect of your own therapy, learn what works for you. Don’t let anyone tell your you that you have to be  on this or you have to be on that. Learn what works best for you.

5) Fake It Until You Make It! No one is always ready for primetime - but sometimes you have no choice, you must go on stage anyway. Just as in as race where you do not want your opponents to see you squirm - there are times  where you will, want others to see you as"OK" even if you are not.

6)  It Takes Only One Asshole To Ruin Aa Crew`
Apologies for the language but I couldn't find an acceptable substitute for the word. Rowers  that have spent any amount of time in a crew boat will immediately  relate to this one. Anyone, whether in rowing, life, or Parkinson's management would do well to surround themselves with quality people that don't necessarily agree with you but generally share  your positive outlook on life. And  immediately shed yourself of anyone who cannot make a decent cup of lemonade.

7) Remember, Life Isn’t Always Fair 
Occasionally the other crew may “jump the start, or your stroke (lead) rower may miss the big race due to injury.Whatever the scenario, it just does not seem right that your best 8 will not get to prove your superiority over their best. It’s just not the way it was meant to be! Sport certainly teaches you that much of life - especially as it relates to degenerative illness  - may as well be sitting at the craps table in Vegas.

8) Showing Up Is Half The Battle 
Not all of my rowing memories are fond. I have a very clear memory of spending quite a bit of early am time standing around in a circle in the boat bay,fuming, waiting for the last guy(s) debating the best way to take care of   a chronically late teammate and get away with it. Note that we did not have access to any shows like Miami CSI to teach us the proper way to dispose of a teammate.

Seriously Blair - you expect us to believe that you sit at home cnjurng up cartoon images of fictional degenerates do yo? Of course not, I come up with  my best fantasies from the prone position. . I think that in many ways, the lessons we learn from competitive sports are similar to the changes one undergoes from tavelling -or even better, living in a foreign culture I hav no doubt that after living in Japan for four years I returned fundamentally a different person. Pressed to  quantify how - I might likely regurgitate what would likely sounnd like some well-worn cliches. I ,think sport is similar. It has the capacity to change one's outlok in many subtle (often unrecognizable ways.

Ps… Before any readers out there start calling me the Preacher let me confess that I do not consistently do all of these things. One of the reasons to write a blog was precisely for this reason. I figured if I was public with these preachings I would be more likely to get them done myself!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

Blog Update

Almost ready to post.If you played a lot of sports in your youth, you should enjoy this one..Here is something to tide you over...

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Keepin’My Walker In The Fast Lane And My Babies on the Sidewalk

My friend, if you have Parkinson's, I can guarantee that you will  experience many more of life's oft-stated inevitables than simply death and taxes. For starters, I can assure you that someday your Neurologist will look you squarely in the eyes and say, “We’d like to do some seismic testing on your noggin -Game??”  I suggest you inquire if they offer the slightly more patient-friendly DBA (Deep Brain Agitation) option instead (or if you are into medical jargon-"DBS Lite"). In this bleeding-edge procedure, they mess around in the brain, but exit without leaving behind any pesky hardware.

Secondly, one day I can assure you that your partner will catch you “faking” (exaggerating) your Parkinsons symptoms likely to avoid an unpleasant event - like attending your partner’s staff Xmas party. “Rather spend an evening at Abu Ghraib,” you say to yourself. If the following sounds like a lecture - that’s because it is. Your credibility as a neurodegenerate is like your reputation -  it is everything. Are you willing to trade it for yet  another evening behind the keyboard?

Thirdly, either you, your insurance plan, or your health spending account will put out an absurd amount of money for a few   4” wheels and a metal frame -- yes, you will get a walker. For many, the walker represents one of the most powerful symbols of weakness that we have. Yes, your life (at least how others view it) will never be the same. Again.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the walker, as it is a rather simple device with four wheels and a frame. However the walker is in need of a significant image overhaul.   My dream walker would look nothing like your Dad’s walker. Mine would look like it belonged more on a construction site and there might be signs everywhere saying:“Protect your subthathalamic nucleus - WEAR A HARDHAT when using your walker”. Mine would be handcrafted by a big burly fellow like Mike Holmes, the construction guy on TV. It would ooze stainless steel,  carbon fibre , and as much tech as we could fit on board.

My team's marketing ads would be of  Super Bowl-quality, containing pickup truck commercial-levels  of testosterone. We’d hire a Malboro-looking kind of guy to be our poster boy. Clint must be close to needing a walker by now. And by golly we’d get the walkers  out of the funny-smelling home-medical supply stores. Nothing dulls  a Manly-man’s spendy wendiness more than seeing the product of his dreams displayed in  between bed-wetting sheets and toilet risers . We’d sell them at Home Depot, placing them between the 24-volt drills and the Milwaukee  nail guns.

And yes, while "Nexen" would seem to be an adequate name, for my steed, we would like to give the boys choices. The fellas that have accepted their condition would likely be content with our bread and butter intro model, the "Neurodegenerator". Others might want to have a name that reflects the trials and tribulations they have gone through - maybe the "Sub-Thalaminator"; Our more sensitive brethren might be interested in a walker name that reflects how it makes them feel  - the "Invalidator",  or the top of the line "Marginalizor".

 From a practical standpoint, despite its name, the walker cannot help me walk. You  see, if I am sans-dopamine - nothing will make those legs move. Then what - praytell - does my walker do? It gets me attention -- sometimes unwanted. I will explain by sharing a few tales  from my recent trip east to visit family.
This was to be the maiden voyage of NEXUS my new walker. I hopped from the car, leaving my wife to park at some distant lot. I continued towards the WestJet check-in noting that there was a substantial line up. What happened next left me surprised, confused, and unsure of what I really wanted.

 The WestJet clerk waved me forward, creating a new line  with me at the front. She had, in essence, jumped the queue for me. I subtlely scanned the others to see whether anyone else had noticed. For the first time, I mentally arm-wrestled with the -quandary of whether I wanted to be treated differently -  notably at a time that I didn’t need it.

I was checked in quickly and rounded the corner to towards security . I noted a very long line for the general public on the left,  and a  much shorter line on the right for "Nexus" (business and frequent travellers). As I approached the  security officer, I pointed to my walker,  branded "Nexus", then pointed to the  priority line-up, then to my chest and smiled. I received the maximum allowable smirk under their current security working agreement. Then surprisingly she motioned me towards the priority “Nexus" side. It was far less busy. 

We passed our trays onwards towards a Second officer whose specialized skill set likely landed her the coveted title of "distributor of the trays...and dispenser of miscellaneous rude gestures and offensive comments. However, her normally razor-sharp ability  to quickly discern full-grown, competent adults who are capable of answering independently from young children, teens who say “whatever”, and small fish, was about to falter. She gave me a look like I was the last available selection for dodgeball and  - then  turned to my wife and asked if "He" (ME)   would be able to walk through without my walker. I was puzzled. While my mini-stroke-induced  speech  impediment might delay my MENSA entry a bit, I had not said anything that she might have heard. Those that are regular readers and are aware that I publish at the prolific rate of about once /month would be none too surprised to learn that I could not come up with a smart-ass answer in adequate time. "Yes, I will be fine, but I would rather smack you over the head with my walker and ride the conveyor belt through…"

 Finally, in order to tiein the latter half of the title to the story, I need to tell you one more fish tale. This story starts in the inky black of my back lane, garbage night. Blogger, an avid recycler and amateur back lane garbage spelunker is excitedly unearthing a major find - a -nearly-whole, well-reserved ”Chariot”,(child carrier, trailer) )estimated to be from the late 90s time period. Blogger nearly wets his pants in excitement as he carries find back to camp. 

 With a little TLC, “Harriet the chariot”  has hauled a myriad of loads, from two rolls of sod, to a 12-pack of beer, to a dozen roses. I was on a run the other day when two cars passed in quick succession  both yelling indecipherables. I finally understood the driver of the third car who shouted,  “Get your baby on the sidewalk!” A phrase which has now becone part of our household lexicon.

 I hear you..."Come on,Blair, wrap this baby up like you usually do - pulling together a bunch of seemingly pointless and rambling threads into one tightly woven conclusion that rivals those god-forsaken Christmas sweaters your Nana used to give you..."

"Hariet the Chariot"

 Of course I could file most of this away in a folder tabbed: “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. The problem is that being a typical blogger, I don't necessarily  walk the walk - but what is worse -  I write the walk. Example: We had just finished a recent  speech therapy session where I had been videoed. I watched it again in the car and my heart sank as looked at it - slurred syllables and a rolling head, I looked like a cross between Stevie  Wonder and Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. I remarked to my wife of how dumb I looked - adding that if MENSA ever saw the video, my entry would surely be delayed.. How could I justify the piling on I had done with the security officer when I myself deep down maybe wasn’t a whole lot different. Could I be excused for my faux pas because I was both the offender and the victim? Was the only difference between her and myself that I knew what was acceptable to say - irrespective of what I was thinking?

All question to which I do not have answers to. As often seems to be the case with me I have managed to slog through a rather lengthy blog entry, not starting out knowing what I had to say - but rather ending asking what  did I say??

Feedback, comment? You've been hiding for quite a while.. Unmask yourself!!

 Email Blair

Monday, 3 August 2015

"Third Times the Charm?"

Yet again I  managed to defy the odds as I was rebuffed in my second try at DBS.

We were ¾ of the way through; the Brain surgeon had mapped more  than Samuel de Champlain when Blair started to talk funny everyone knew the jig was up. I had experienced a mini-stroke (4% chance) and the proceedings were halted at that point. I will need to try again in six months. The effects of the surgery and/or stroke (we are not sure which effects come from which event) have been substantial, and not all negative.

My sleep habits have been transformed back to that of a teenager’s. It is really remarkable to experience. My balance has been the main negative, but has already improved dramatically and is already close to normal. The primary difficulty has been my speech, with me occasionally sounding like a drunken sailor or a former Canadian Prime Minister from Shawinigan. My main frustration has been that my computer speech program does not understand me anymore. I’ve tried creating a new profile; They have profiles such as British accent, southern US, and even teens (lol, whatever). They even offer  'other accents not specified," but I doubt they were referring to DBS induced stroke speech illegibility.

With   regards to Part II to Roller Boy, I will not be publishing that immediately, but will morph its contents into some future entry. Instead, I will be publishing a blog entry that refers specifically to recent events in the surgery milieu.tentatively titled "Viva Las Vegas".hat will chronicle my uncanny ability to routinely surmount seemingly insurmountable medical odds


Monday, 20 July 2015

Envoy rollerboy

I’ve never been terribly fond of unexpected visitors at my door. Possibly King of the castle syndrome, I'm not sure.With Parkinson's, that sentiment has only intensified. I also seem to have a diminished ability to fake it, i.e., the doorbells equivalent of a phone call’s “no, you didn’t wake me up” demeanour. It’s just that often the timing is not right - meaning that with the effort required to get downstairs, I might as well have been asked to go down and raise the drawbridge.
I shuffled to the door. The impatient second ring came quickly. With that info I pegged our dirty rascal as mid to late high school. I opened the door and there he was - “Roller Boy”. A landscaping busker, an entrepreneurial huckster, ultimately, 100% pure bluster.

 A young man of linguistic economy, his approach was pure, unadulterated, and wholly unrehearsed. "Want your lawn Rolled?" was both his opener and closer. I thought it my duty to suggest that in my neighbourhood of lilliputian lots, perhaps he might make more money as a chimney sweep. I refrained. His facial expression turned quizzical. He looked at me, cocked his head (like my Collie/Husky Cross does when she can’t find her squeaky toy), then tossed me a grenade. 

Are you using?" Before I could utter anything more than unintelligibles, he pulled the pin and lobbed the second, “Are you on heroin?” I was stunned. Stunned that this kid was allowed to leave the factory without a filter installed - and stunned that I could be mistaken for a heroin user. Did I really look that bad?
I quickly marshalled all available brain cells with dopamine reserves and explored my options. I could 1) Thump him upside of his subthalamic nucleus. 2) Accuse him of being a member of the Flat Earth Society, and disappear inside.  3) Consider It a teachable moment. I threw back my head and let out a hearty laugh. And with that, Parkinson's 101 in the reeducation of “Roller Boy” began.

While some may be surprised with my reaction (or lack of) Why did I not take offence? It took me a while to figure it out but I think underneath it all, I was simply pleased that I didn’t give a shit. Not in the disrespectful “I don’t care what you think” way, the “this is not something I need be concerned with” way. But is it all that simple?

Part 2 Coming Up...

Sunday, 21 June 2015

No Brain Cells Were Stimulated in the Writing of This Blog Entry

It was a sordid affair. Another of my surgically unconsummated flings. Left at the Deep Brain Stimulation altar for reasons which I cannot share without jeopardizing a pending book deal, I now look forward to a mid-July sequel. But not before leaving you with...

The Top 10 Explanations Why Blair's DBS Surgery Was Halted With Nary a Tickle...

10 The "procedure", was just a sampler - part of the hospital's “All Surgeries – One Day” promotion that gives ambitious patients the opportunity to non-invasively sample any surgery or procedure that they might like to pursue.

9 His team was operating on a strict "Didn't call - Won't Drill" policy.
8 He was flagged for a psych assessment and put on the “no-drill” list after his name was discovered on a list of patients with blogs "who make us look silly".
7 A security breach. Dr. Zeus from his “DBS dream” blog entry stormed into the operating room shouting “Blair said I could dig the first hole!” 6 Someone forgot to make the “Call Before you Drill” phone call. 5 Once the Frankenesque mask had been fitted, Blair,only had to croon a few bars before a serious earworm infestation took hold and brought the clinic to a standstill. It caught on in a flash, especially with the graveyard staff, he did the Mash... 4 Unbeknownst to Blair he had booked himself for the new DIY DBS plan where the hospital provides full gear rental and installation - as well a Cranial guidebook based on their own personal MRI imaging and local guides (Top Places To Explore While In the Subthalamic Nucleus, etc.)
3 The drill bit chosen was no match for my steely will - they had to retool. 2 Noting that the patient has had six surgeries (both consummated and not) within the last 5 years, the hospital gave him a four week suspension, pleading with his wife to "Please find the man a different hobby".. 
1  Blair was lanced from the surgery queue due to the detection of high levels of the performance-enhancing drug amoxicillin.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Now For a Short DBS Break...

Tomorrow's the big day. My Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. I'm not sure when the next post will be - hopefully in the next week or two. I did come close to finishing my last post but not quite. I assume when I do post you'll want to hear about the surgery first so I will put the other one on the back burner. Talk to you soon,

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Blogger Goes Electric - Readers Protest


In Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Surgery, a thin electrode is implanted into the brain, targeting motor circuits that are not functioning properly. Small electrical pulses from a device similar to a cardiac pacemaker are then used to stimulate a small brain region and block the signals that cause some Parkinson’s symptoms. DBS may be targeted to the globus pallidus or subthalamic nucleus to improve motor function. The stimulator is adjusted as necessary to optimize the effects of the surgery. This blogger has watched it on the distant horizon for quite some period. Has his time come?

Scene: Two neurosurgeons confer at the bedside of a patient who has just had DBS surgery.

Dr. Zeus: "It’s a tragedy Parkinson’s struck him at such a young age. I understand he had such a promising career as a pole dancer."
Dr. Dubinhoeffer: "Yes, his dismounts were flawless. Oh yeah, his wife warned me that he might act like a bit of a goof when he comes to. She said something about him likely doing some sort of shtick - not really sure what she meant but we’ll see."
Patient: "I ffeee..." (patient grimaces)
Patient:  (rubs his eyes, wipes nose on his sleeve) “ Wo! I feel good!!”
Dr. Zeus:  “That’s great!”
Patient: “I knew that I would now”
Dr. Zeus:  “Why is that?”
Patient: “I feel good, I knew that I would now”
Dr. Zeus:  “The nausea should wear off i...”
Patient:  “So good”
Dr. Zeus: “Ah ha”
Patient: “So good...”
Dr. Zeus: "Dubinhoeffer, we may have nicked the repeat utterance node. Might require an adjustment on the stimulator - unless he will be working as a greeter following recovery.
Patient: “I GOT YOU!!!”
Dr. Zeus:  “No, you don’t have me - you have your wife Judy. And I’m guessing it’s a miracle that you still have her.”
Dr. Zeus:  “Mr. Rasmussen, The DBS surgery was a success by any measure  - except possibly some that may be important to you.”
Patient: “I thought the surgery was to be performed with me awake?”
Dr. Zeus: “That was the original plan. You know, you did seem to endear yourself to my surgical team for a time - but eventually your relentless verbal diarrhea wore on them. We took a quick poll at the 8 minute point and all agreed your surgical outcome would be markedly better by being put down… ummm, under.
Dr. Zeus:  “Once the team had finished hugging the anaesthesiologist, we got down to work. As you know Mr. Rasmussen, we try to take a holistic approach with our Deep Brain Stimulation Procedure. We feel that once we’ve got the lid open we have a responsibility to the patient to deal with issues (Parkinson’s or not) that we find and can resolve. Quite simply, we would like you to think of us as a one-stop shop for any issue that starts with the noggin.”
Dr. Zeus: "The first task was not related to Parkinson’s, but in our judgment likely had a greater impact on your quality-of-life than PD itself. Closer inspection of your MRI showed you to be suffering from a deeply burrowed “earworm” - one of the nastiest cases we’ve ever seen. You’ve had this song in your head for quite a while, correct?”
Patient: “Yes, since day two of frosh week, 1983. The song is Wooly Bully by Sam The Sham and The Pharaohs. It is not a painful condition, (unless you’re listening to the Joan Jett or Bruce Springsteen cover) but I often find  myself in very awkward social situations where I, I,...,”
Dr. Zeus: “Blurt out random lyrics uncontrollably?”
Patient: (a tear runs down cheek) “Yes – People laugh, but it’s no joke.  The stress on the marriage can be enormous. Imagine going to your partner’s elementary school staff party - a normally staid affair. You are just minding your own business trying as hard as you can to contain yourself as you note how many remind you of Alvin the Chipmunk - one cheek puffed out full of Christmas goodies – the other chock full of educational acronyms. You can’t stand it any longer and you break out into chorus:
Matty told Hatty about a thing she saw
Had two big horns and a wooly jaw
Wooly bully, wooly bully...

Dr. Zeus: “What is the reaction?"
Dr. Zeus: “They either lock you in one of the spare rooms, or they think if you are that crazy they  offer you a job in Admin.”
Dr. Zeus:  “The songs that get stuck in people’s heads tend to be melodically and rhythmically simple. Would that be fair description?"
Patient: "Uh, yeah"
Dr. Zeus:  “While earworm remediation is generally not our forte, we took the liberty of attempting treatment. Phil from radiology mentioned that he had one of the classic earworm extraction CDs: Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”. We followed the directions carefully - as the side effects can often exceed the severity of the original condition. Results may take up to two weeks – but do contact the hospital, your family Physician, or call 911 immediately if sometimes when you touch the honesty is too much, and you have to close your eyes and hide…

Dr. Zeus: “Our next “value-added service” was to switch on the “badboy” control in your prefrontal cortex, as per your personality change request detailed in your draft cartoon. Do note change in terminology from the less-than-palatable wording used in your draft request.
Patient: "That was not meant to be serious! It was a cartoon, that’s all."
Dr. Zeus: "That may be so, I’m guessing you will be extremely interested in our findings. Your “bad boy” switch looked like it had been stuck in the “on” position for sometime. We are talking years, if not decades. From a clinical perspective, this is absolutely remarkable."
Patient: “Why do you say that?”
Dr. Zeus: "What this means is that nurture has triumphed over nature!"
Patient: "What exactly does this mean?"
Dr. Zeus: "Well, it would seem that right from birth you have been totally wired to be a “bad-boy”. You know, Mick Jagger, James Dean, Ben Mulroney, etc. Have you ever spent any time in the Big House? Left women at the altar? Trashed hotel rooms on tour?"
Patient: "I don’t think so. I have a collection of soap and towels. Do those count for anything?"
Dr. Zeus: "I’m guessing you’ve had some pretty solid female influences in your lifetime - ?"
Patient: Yes, Mom, my late sister Linda, my wife...Life-affirming role models
Dr. Zeus: "Well, here’s the thing. We found that bad-boy lever to be frozen solid. We couldn’t budge it. I have read your blog and understand your brothers, well, they’re not perfect - who is? But they might just be part of your social fabric that is so effectively keeping you on the straight and narrow. You’d be well advised to keep them around. Your Mom? The fact that you can’t lie to her face might be precisely the reason she likes to face time you. Your wife - all can say is do not screw that up as she is your last line of defense between your current domestic bliss and having a new roommate named Vinny…”

”Another non-Parkinson’s related task we performed came from the fact that virtually everyone on our surgical team found your writing in the blog to be murky, unintelligible at times, and well, nonsensical.”
Patient: “You’re telling me you’re offering me a blog review after reading for five minutes?”
Dr. Zeus:  “Oh no, we were extremely thorough - we took a two hour lunch to go over it.”
Patient: “You’re kidding me…”
Dr. Zeus:  “Not at all. Bernie put your MRI up on the screen, Myrna would read a blog entry of yours, and we would take turns guessing what part of the brain was impaired enough to produce that level of dysfunction.”
Patient: “Incredible!"
Dr. Zeus:  “I know, exactly my reaction. Mr. Rasmussen. When lunch was finally over we all come to an agreement about what treatment location would maximize results. We deftly placed the lead in the temporal lobe, specifically in the Blogospheric Inflatius where rogue electrical activity was producing nonsensical blog entries."
Patient: “You stole that from my draft! That’s not even a real structure - I made it¬up!
Dr. Zeus:  “That is a pretty serious accusation! In any event, your directions were excellent - we found it exactly where you said it would be. We think your readers will be pleased with results.

Dr. Zeus:  “Our last non-Parkinson’s issue we dealt with arrived via a request from one of your brothers concerned that some of your content (notably a few of the cartoons) were coming from quite a dark place. Have you read Amir and Biederman’s landmark research on comedy in the brain – specifically the finding that the temporal lobe is the source of humour?"
Patient: “Yes, they believe that jokes are made there"
Dr. Zeus:  “How do I put this delicately…? We couldn’t find many lights in that region of your brain. Your brother was right on. Indeed, it was pitch black in there."
Patient: “My dad always told us to turn out the lights when we are not using the Temporal Lobe."
Dr. Zeus:  “That was only moderately funny. Sir, there were zero lights on. We could not even find a nightlight on."
Patient: “You think that might be because you guys knocked me out?"
Dr. Zeus:  “Good point. So What is your next blog topic?
Patient: My current project is a short tale of a blogger with Parkinson’s who has the brain stimulation surgery (at least he thinks that they got that done  :-).  He wakes up in the recovery room with his two surgeons hovering over him, seemingly more interested in the “extra” surgical tasks they accomplished while they were rummaging around in his noggin. The blogger is fascinated by the science and potential for those operating in the brain in the future. He speculates whether in the future these medical professionals will be viewed more as the “plastic surgeons” of the day operating from an ala Carte menu with such spectacular results that the whole concept of elective and non-elective surgery needs to be revisited."
Patient: “Soooo, my blogging is nonsensical, you say? Is there something wrong with that ?"
Dr. Zeus:  “You are so predictable - I knew you'd come back to that :-)  Absolutely, they should make sense, shouldn’t they?"
Patient: Nonsense! You expect me to make sense out of nonsense? I tried long ago to make sense out of the disease and failed miserably."
Dr. Zeus:  “What doesn’t make sense to you?"
Patient: Not a whole lot. The fact the Parkinson’s was discovered in 1817 – and you guys haven’t cracked the nut yet? That mystifies me. The fact that my days are so predictably unpredictable - that puzzles me. The fact that after 10 years of the disease my only option is like Dylan, to go electric, disappoints me."

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living, It’s a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope. Which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life’s realities.”    - Dr Seuss -

Patient: Writing nonsense makes sense for me right now, and the space that I am in. Reality doesn’t always make pleasant writing (nor reading)."
Dr. Zeus:  “I may not be the sharpest scalpel on the table, but I think I'm piecing together what's going down here - you’ve been looking at DBS through the wrong end of a telescope - that the surgery has been a dream of sorts that it never really happened? That I’ve been just a bit player in one of your productions?"
Patient: Hey, if you were a bit player in this production, you would've been Phil from radiology, or Dr. Dubinhoeffer who had only one line in the whole show. This show was built around you/for me. This is been one good bout nonsense therapy for me. Good mental prep for my real date in mid June."
Dr. Zeus:  “Best of luck Mr. Rasmussen. Keep your sense of humour, eh?"
Patient: (presses nurses call button)
Wooly Bully, Wooly Bully…

[Comments? Like this post? Think I need another long break? Want to nominate me for one of ttose cheesy bloggger awards? You can reach me personally at: blair.rasmussen@gmail.com

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The Late 'Great One'

I can cope with the fact that my mobility is well, not terribly mobile every few hours, that my equilibrium system is  not equilibrating quite as it used to, and that my dexterity is not dexterous anymore. But this is the last straw. I've now learned that I, (and my ilk), are suspected of having defective time perception.

Yes, the consequences could be frightening. As the research states: "The perception and estimation of time are fundamental for the relationship between humans and their environment". If you interpreted "environment" as referring to your partner, you are  tactless. You likely getting yourself in more trouble than I am these days. But yes, if we do make that leap, then we quickly recognize the nasty implications.

First, let's present the science: Researchers at the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee and Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Albuquerque have identified areas in the brain responsible for perceiving the passage of time in order to carry out critical everyday functions - like accurately gauging how long you been in the shower in order to make sure you leave enough water for your partner - for as we all know, is nothing more dangerous than a teacher scorned by a cold shower on a school day.

"However, this temporal information processing is inefficient in patients with Parkinson’ disease (PD), resulting in temporal judgment deficits. In general, the pathophysiology of PD has been described as a dysfunction in the basal ganglia, which is a multisensory integration station."

I confess, this was not a total surprise to me. In recent months I had noticed some subtle changes. You know how they say Gretzky never went to where the puck was, he went to where it was going to be? That used to be me. I was the master of my domain. I knew what was going to happen, and when. Wife's going upstairs to get something? I knew exactly whether I had time to: 1) take a swig of the milk carton, 2) steal a cookie from the oven and adjust the remaining,  or, 3) grab her iPhone to find out when her birthday  is. Or all three.

However lately my ability to manage and resolve conflict seems to be faltering. They say that "time heals all wounds", but how much time? And what kind of wounds? Just a flesh wound? Ego laceration? How will I ever know when it is safe to open a slammed door? My basal ganglia used to tingle with relevant timing info. Like firemen who can judge the ferocity of the inferno on the other side by putting his hand up to the  door, I seemed to have an innate ability to judge with the passing of time when the tension and hostilities had settled enough for peace talks - and whether I should wear flak jacket just to be safe.

My difficulties with perceiving the passage of time also has had repercussions  in the entertainment sphere as my ability to effectively gauge the optimal Netflix reject and retreat point (the optimal point to bail on a partner-chosen movie) was clearly struggling. Sloppy timing and you will be the recipient of: "you never gave it a chance"  (early termination), or, "now you've ruined the finish for me". Either way, chances are good that your next cinematic experience will be enjoyed on a 4.5 inch screen.

Time estimation is also the very foundation of analyzing the sincerity and pliability of "departure threats". "Honey, I'm leaving at 4:15 PM with or without you". You have to be careful with these - first, you must answer the question: does she really want to be on time? Or is she just looking for some time sans-you? In any event, with the diminished ability to judge the passing of time, your ability to call her bluff is significantly impaired. You might just want to consider being on time from now on. How? Try this first: Imagine there has been a new time zone created just for you - let's call it "PDT" (That's correct, Parkinson's Disease Time. Go ahead, change your clocks. Your time zone is set 30 minutes ahead of MDT (Mountain Daylight Time). There you go, they've got 30 more  minutes to get ready for anything they throw your way!

Like many other symptoms of Parkinson's, others tend to notice some much earlier than you do yourself. (Or in the master charade, you pretend they are not there.)
My wife notices these changes much more than I ever have. I am much more aware of the challenges in accomplishing tasks when my dopamine is on the low end of the tank. These situations can be infinitely frustrating - characterized by uncertainty. Miss-judging  the passing of time can be a source of stress. The other uncertainty is whether your meds will even kick-in in time. To live and thrive amidst all these constant question marks requires a pretty special person.  Having the patience of yoga master, the "no nonsence" glance of a grade 6 teacher, and the wisdom of when to utilize each, I can't imagine having a better partner to go to war with.

But let's be honest, Basal ganglia function aside, time doesn't really heal all wounds". But an orchid and a massage does :-)

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Strategic Acts of Humour, Stupidity, and Love - Pt 2

Welcome to part two of the Rasmussen boys' eternal chase for the "Favourite Son" crown. Let's get to the last Rasmussen tale of humour, stupidity, and love. 

Should'a Worn Capris

Often the best thing you can give  your mom is the gift of laughter. For if even for a minute you can make her forget her Orwellian existence the hellions have imprisoned her in you can score big. Our elementary school was bordered on one side with Farmer Levi's orchard of peaches and pears, along with a well-worn hole in the fence to grab snacks at lunch. One day at recess, brother Dudley and his special Ops team crossed the DMZ into enemy territory. It wasn't more than a few minutes before the special code word was uttered: RUN!!!

One by one the troops scampered under the fence, commando style, with Dudley pulling up the rear. From a distance he heard a faint "dud, Dud, DUD!" what the...? "dud, Dud, DUD!" - it was Dudley's classmates chanting for him! As he neared the tunnel under the fence he could smell Farmer Levi's stinkin' cherry wine breath. The chant reached a crescendo -- "DUD!, DUD!!, DUD!!! As Dudley slid under the fence, he felt a tug on the cuffs of his jeans. Dusting himself off on the other side, he stood up and immediately felt a draft down below. Farmer Levi had yet another pair for his barn door.

We all assume that Dudley ran home in his underwear, but memories fade, and no one really seems to know how the story ended. We do know that while Dudley was most certainly traumatized by the incident, he believes his underwear saved him - and to this day still wears them on special occasions.

Points wise this was a very tough one to grade. If Mom could ignore the indictable offense, it could score very highly on the humour parameter, but mom confessed to me that this had happened very shortly after we moved to town leaving a few people in town thinking that we were a band of thieving nomads. Time was on Dudley's side though, as the humorous side of the story overtook the negatives, and with this being an oft retold story at family gatherings, Dudley still scores the occasional residual point for this event.

So that's it for look at "Favourite Son Pursuit" Rasmussen rules. Just ahead we look at some more advanced tactics for those of you that want to take this sport to the next level. Just remember, like anything else in life, the more you put in the more you get out. It's all well and fine to play this game at a hobby level, but consider that your mother gave you a semi-pro or even pro commitment for upwards of 18 years. Are you pulling your weight?

Favourite Son Pursuit (FSP) Advanced Strategy Considerations:

The following advanced strategies are presented on the assumption that you have fulfilled the prerequisites and have a solid foundation in the basics of FSP. This blogger will not be responsible for any damages to any sibling relationships, parental unit relationships, or any loss of son ranking. There are no guarantees, implied or assumed.

Event Timing - All of the life events depicted may seem disconnected and events unto themselves. However there may be a significant advantage to be gained by simultaneously both scoring and negating of the points scored by an opponent. For example, if you know your brother was about to publish in the University of Phoenix Online Journal of Academics Who Need to Pad Their Publishing Totals, then the timing might be perfect to announce to Mom that you have been nominated as one of Maclean's magazine's top 500 influential bloggers in Calgary SW.

Playing The MEDI Card - If you plan to even consider playing the "MEDI Card", please read this very carefully as the technique is fraught with land mines. This involves using your medical condition to strategic advantage by eliciting sympathy. In short, don't do it. Mom is fond of saying that she hates "pity parties" . If you really believe this, be consistent, throw your card away and renounce membership pronto.

Keep the Game Close - Ask any parent of a Barnum & Bailey-sized family, and they will tell you the answer is PARITY! To heck with worrying about making it to your 80s -- If you want to survive your parental years, you had better focus on getting every kid into the playoffs rather than hoping for one Gretzky out of the bunch. In practical terms, this means that moms are not fond of endzone celebrations, piling on, and commanding leads. Just remember, if you are bold enough to take a commanding lead, you had best be the humblest bumble you can be.

Level the Playing Field - Pool Your Intelligence - There may be times in this game we begin to feel a tad uncomfortable about Mom's ever-expanding role in the game. The ideal appearance of a Mom in this game is a look of mild disapproval and ignorance. Signs that your mother is taking on an inappropriate role in the game are: 1) you catch her spiking the ball in the end zone, 2) In the fall she sends out preseason scouting reports on all of her boys, 3) she announces that she has signed up for one of those new FSP "Fantasy Leagues" where each mother has an opportunity to draft her own selection of sons. This last one should be particularly troubling to any player invested in the game.

Alternately you may become disenchanted with the height of the pedestal and the increasingly regal behaviour of your Mom in the rarified air. It's time to act. Here is a real-life example:

Doc, the FIRM's gift advisor noted that we could be saving an enormous amount of both money and time by banning the purchase of cut flowers and mandating that brothers purchase the longer-lasting  orchids for mom. Doc even went as far as to standardize the number of flowers and buds in order to take the pressure off the boys. Mom  disapproved of the change at first but now feigns a love affair with the orchids to save face.  A win/win/win/win/win/win situation for the boys. "I can now afford to buy a decent Niagara wine instead of that cheap Okanagan swill" gushed the normally staid academic.

No discussion of the Rasmussen boys would be complete without a mention of our High School science teacher's tactless forecast: "Marion, the Rasmussen boys will always struggle". Not only was he saying that we were not the sharpest knives in the block, was he insinuating that might be more suited to the cutlery drawer? A second equally astute comment from him was, "I can't believe that Linda is from the same family as the Rasmussen Boys". A real gem he was. Yes, Linda Louise…

The Lone Voice of Sanity?

Out of the cacophony of farts, whining, and "say uncle"s, you could  hear the pleas as clear as day: "Will you kids grow up!" While her exhortations typically were directed towards my elders, all of us were on the receiving end at some point. These typically included a multi-pronged verbal attack on our maturity and intelligence, with a not-so-vague Darwinian insinuation that we were not as high up on the evolutionary scale as previously thought.
Lest you think that my sister was all sugar and spice, she was not. She was more than that. But Linda deserves far more space than I have here so I will leave her for another time.

The Verdict: Case # 1482. The Rasmussen Boys Vs Mom Raz.

No doubt you are wondering how she got so high up on the pedestal. Some compare her to the cat who climbs up on the roof knowing it can't descend, but content that her 10 minutes of fame when the firemen arrive will be worth it. Others suggest she resembles more a treed bear who climbs ever higher seeking to avoid all the hullabaloo below. Knowing that she enjoys the occasional dose of hullabaloo, the truth is likely somewhere in between. One thing is for certain, she didn't climb up there on her own. I'm guessing there are at least six other suspects we need to bring in for questioning.

And yes, she does look in no hurry to climb down. And why should she? To face the heinous crimes she is supposedly guilty of? Of the cardinal maternal sin of naming a favourite? There is no evidence that can prove that she had a favourite - rather that she made each of us feel like we were the favourite. That out of a bunch of butter knives, we were the lone steak knife. (A stretch for some maybe - paring knife?)

Equally worrisome, was the charge of betting on her own team. Verdict - GUILTY! This second charge comes with no jail time. - What self-respecting mom would not bet on her own team?

I used to think that any parents of a big family would be content if all the delinquents  managed to avoid incarceration. Maybe that was shooting a bit too low? Off the record Mom stated that she thought that her greatest accomplishment in life was that all of her boys "got along with each other".

I suppose the right thing to do would be to let her believe that we have a special bond - that when we see each other after a long absence we give each other deep meaningful hugs, not half men hugs.  The real truth is is that we would love to be beating the living tar out of each other still, but our bodies cannot withstand the physical punishment (nor the hospitalizations). Not to mention the fact that my parole officer would be none too pleased =)

: Finally cornered for a comment before posting, Ms. Rasmussen offered the following statement: "Every one of my boys is special. I have never, ever, and will NEVER play favourites with my boys." 1

1. except on weeks when I'm mentioned in the blog

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Strategic Acts of Humour, Stupidity, and Love - Pt 1

Flaming out in the talent component yet again, he can hear his mother: 
"Dudley, use your words". That's it. He will rock the oratory tomorrow.

This is a tale of intrigue and cunning, A story of a centuries-old  sport played by royals, rogues, and Rasmussens. It's a game where the rules, (if you can call them that),are fabricated by the players. And oddly enough, involve pursuing their masters who seem to be increasingly venerated the longer the game is played.

Just who is the target of this pursuit? Your mom of course. The one who knows there is something up with you before you know there is something up with you. Your mom - One of the few in your life that thinks it’s quite all right for you to call with nothing to say - but of course will know you have something to say before you say it :-)  Mom... she will not lie to you - but she will not necessarily tell the truth either.

What is at stake here in this game? We hope nothing, but minimally the coveted  designation of favorite son. Anything else? A T-shirt?? A reality TV show contract? Nope. Only a barrel full of contradictions. Try some of these on for size. Warning, understanding the parameters of the game may require your most lateral thinking and general  outside-the--ed-ness you can muster.  For Starters:
  • Any self-respecting mom worthy of the role, would never designate a favourite son or daughter in any situation.
  • The game will never be called. If played properly, according to the, non rules, it will be permanently into extra innings, over time, i.e., like the movie Groundhog Day. Why, you say? Well, I think we'd all agree that even if they could, they would  not name a favourite, as they have no motivation to. My mom has six Santas on the hook right now. There is nothing that would motivate her to designate a favourite son which would effectively cut her down from 6 Santas to 1.  
  • The game has no rules. The game, if played properly - will be guided by no rules of play. It would truly seem to be a game made by Rasmussen’s for Rasmussen’s.
  • We really don't like mom getting "into" the game too much. We don't mind her "playing" the game, but we really don't want her to be a "player".  

One last item before you move on to some real-life examples. Hang in there, it's about to get a little murkier in here :-) I know you'd love to play a game where the goal posts keep moving, where you are never sure if you scored for your team or the other, or even how to score. I know this is hard to digest, but when you're dealing with a game where the referee is sitting in the stands, getting a ruling can be a little difficult.

It's not that complicated though. Positive events connected to either you or your close family generate credits for your account. If your younger brother made the cut in the Maclean's magazine 20 Socially Irrelevant Bloggers in the Southwest Calgary Community of Evergreen we would never know for sure, but my hunch is that your brother would take a considerable leap in the standings Always remember, the importance of prestige of an event is always in your mother's eyes, not yours.

Events or accomplishments that debit your account, are typically more rare as most people have cleansed themselves of youthful indiscretions long ago.  The typical debit event can be described as a youthful indiscretion, likely involving testosterone, bucket loads of stupidity, and a gasoline engine. Later in life these types of events can still occur but the circumstances are often dramatically different, as they now typically involve much less testosterone, (possibly estrogen), more stupidity, and often a more efficient hybrid engine.  

If something way back in that pea-size cranium gives you a moment of pause and reflection before acting, or causes you to pull your dogeared copy of the pocket criminal code, it is more often a naucent debit event. For example, if after failing to meet the stringent grandchild production  quota, you submit  your border collie/Husky Cross as a suitable replacement, the penalty will be swift and painful.

Residuals (debit or credit) are paid theoretically as long as the event continues to produce an effect. So if Mom is still having nightmares years after that night you went to the "library" and stayed out all night without calling - yes indeed, you will continue to pay the price. On the flipside, as long as mom continues to tell the story of your cross Canada bike trip, you will continue to see the points  trickling in.

Enough of the theory, let's move to some real life examples. All of the following are true stories taken from the archives of the Rasmussen family library. If you aspire to play this game at a high level, examine these case studies carefully. I will offer some pointed observations and analysis following each. As we go through, to try and keep in mind the motivations and aspirations of both the sons and their mom.

One more thing,  my brothers seem to enjoy their privacy. I will maintain that with this blog entry as well. I have given them nicknames as follows: from youngest to oldest: Feral, "Funny Boy", Doc, Dudley, and Ricardo. In addition, I may refer to the entire group As "The FIRM".

It’s A Different Kind Of Sweet

Where does dad fit into all of this? Rough around the edges, My late father  did have a warm side but  as they say, it was just not that "accessible". Suffice to say, that if the two of them were honey, Mom would be pourable sweet golden nectar, while dad would be the the spoon bending pail of concrete with the white crust on top. Ten wrist aching strokes later you found yourself staring at 10 paper-thin slivers. Now if you were a young lad looking for a quick and easy sweet topping for your Wonder Bread, which would you approach first??

Nothing says "Mom, I'm desperate for points" more than…

Mom and I met at the south entrance to the pool deck and she wanted to “walk the red carpet” together to her aqua fit class at the far end.
“Mom, I’m desperate for points.”
“What’s this one worth?” (No answer)
"Seriously, I'm hurting. The residuals from my bike trip are fading fast."
" Blair, you sound like "Funny Boy".
She displayed her annoyance as we approached the Aquafit group in the corner and whispered:
“Blair, suck your gut in. - Are you skipping workouts again?”

As far as the standings were concerned, performing at the Y seemed to be a zero sum game. Everyone knew it would be suicide in the standings to not go so going was just the default. All except her eldest. Who held off for the longest time and then finally went.  I think Ricardo was given some accommodation for his age being closer to many of the octogenarians than the rest of his brothers.

Note that mom does let her guard down here revealing that she may be playing the game with more than one of us. Could she be working the pockets of the entire field? I.e., was she employing a "Ben Johnson" strategy? That as long as everyone was hoodwinking everyone  equally, she could justify it morally.  Could it be so? To heck with a double agent. Could mom be making the rounds to all six boys with the same message - that they are her favourite? Could she be a sextuple agent???

The Mother Lode?

You are never certain exactly how many points are garnered for any given mission but I'm guessing my decision to scour the wheatfields of Manitoba for a bride of good prairie stock may have hit the mother lode for points received, Mom admired her solid moral fiber and thrift, adding that she was a breath of fresh air as compared to those " uppitty dames from the east." I was pleased that her practical skills were as advertised, and that she could spell me off driving the wagon west to settle in Calgary.

It would be hard to overemphasize the importance of having a great life partner to help fight this battle with. Like the other Rasmussen men, I was just barely smart enough to realize that I was not  the sharpest knife in the block - but as long as I married the sharpest knife in the block all would  be OK. A trusted advisor is a great asset to have when it comes to competition strategy.  My wife does remind me however that's she sees her main role as being less of an adviser, more of a parole officer. Her central role being to basically "keep me from doing "stupid shit" that could either affect my health or my place in the standings.

Not Strapping Enough to Save His Hide

It was the summer of 1979. I was a strapping young 17-year-old who was training with the National  Rowing Team for the World Juniors in Moscow that August. Either by design, or by necessity, Mom and Dad thought it was time to test my wings and they left me alone for the week with their 75 Dodge Dart. I was pleased with receiving the vote of confidence in me as the only previous responsibilities  were when mom and dad had asked me to keep an eye on Ricardo our eldest brother.

The tumult began on day two. I took Feral my younger brother camping about an hour away. At the campground I proceeded in short time to have two accidents in the span of about 15 minutes. I will spare you the details that might illuminate the true depth of my youthful stupidity. I know, I know. You're all wondering the same thing. If I was such a strapping young 17-year-old boy, what the heck was I doing with my baby brother  on a holiday weekend? That is for another time, and I might mention will be answered in a future blog entry: "Large Families, adolescent development, and sleeping four kids to a room long past the point where you would tell your buddies at school."

Calling dad was one of the toughest phone calls I have ever had to make. He was so angry that we barely talked for weeks - a freeze-out only exceeded by brother “Funny Boy's" Cuba-like treatment following his tumbling routine with the family wagon). Rumours that dad severed all diplomatic ties were for the most part, true. However for our forever maternal emissary quickly stepped in and helped maintain a functional level of communication until the honey softened.

While this incident might have had the potential to keep me in the cellar for an extended period, I suspected in the end it was zero sum game. Most surprising, indeed. I benefited from "compensatory favouritism". This often happens when one spouse has overreacted, ultimately dealing in an unfair fashion. The end result is the other acting in a overtly positive manner in order to nullify the negative effects of the first spouse.

Those are just a few snippets of how the Rasmussens play the game. You think you know enough to take us on? Those are just a few of the anecdotes, nowhere near enough ammo to take on the big boys. I will be back in the bit with part two where we examine some more refined techniques and clarify just exactly what Mom's culpability in this game is.

See you in a few days…

Monday, 2 February 2015

Strategic Acts of Humour, Stupidity, and Love

September 8 3 PM - Google's automatic save function in Blogger has struck again. The "feature", which saves your work approximately every 60 seconds, managed to erase some new content I just added since importing from Google Docs. I might be able to get something posted later today, but will be more than likely tomorrow late in the day. Sorry for the delay! Blair

This is a tale of intrigue and cunning, A story of a centuries-old  sport played by royals, rogues, and Rasmussens. It's a game where the rules, (if you can call them that) are fabricated by the players. And oddly enough, involve pursuing their masters who seem to be increasingly venerated the longer the game is played.

Ahhh... The pursuit of "Favorite Son" status. In this age of small families, is it a dying art? Sociologists take an in-depth look at .. Nahh. I bring you a few lighthearted snippets of our life and let you decide - Is Mom an unwitting pawn in this game? OR Is she the one tweaking the strings of the marionettes. You be the judge.

Coming this weekend...

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Forgive Me For I Have Sinned... But Damn, I Look Good!

“Forgive me Dane for I have sinned" I muttered to myself as tugged on the door to Starbucks. While she had no training relating to the confessional, I have always thought that Dane could've made the transition with ease. That is, as long as the Yanks hadn’t drafted her for Guantánamo duties first. Her ability to read me like a cheap Conrad Black prison buy n’ sell, was alarming. Her powers of interrogation were such that on departure I typically checked my pockets to see if at least she had left my wallet intact.

Like a handful of others, Dane is an "unofficial" support staff member of my "Parkinsons Wake" Dream Team. This crack collection of individuals - all the cream of the crop of their respective disciplines (Neurologists, Baristas, Spiritual Vacuum Guides, Forensic Humour Detection Specialists, etc. are entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that I continue to meet (or beat) all neurodegenerative markers set, that my decline remains in line with my d.o.b. AutoDeGenERATOR - a 1961 Dodge Dart (Slant Six) scale, and that ultimately, they leave no stone unturned so that day in/day out, I can be the best little degenerator that I can possibly be.

 Unbeknownst to Dane, she has filled multiple roles on the team over the years. Unbeknownst? Yes, my support team functions entirely in a permanent state of unbeknownst. Really. None of my professionals know the others exist. The benefits are huge. It minimizes competition, which keeps payroll down, keeping me under the salary cap. There is no in-fighting (no one knows who to fight with). On top of all this, I have no stinkin’ Christmas staff party to foot the bill for.

 "How are you Blair?"

 Dane’s delivery, and its timing, had satisfied at least two requirements for an earnest answer. She had either verbally italicized the word "You" or had maintained eye contact without the "deer in the headlights" look of someone who had a distaste for private truths (and feared one was coming straight down the pipe). This was someone, who, like most, preferred the Vicks, but Dane could also handle the Buckley's if prescribed.

“Good Enough" I replied.

"That's a new one?"

"Well, only so many ways to answer that question - and frankly, I'm running out of new ones. That brings us to today's phrase. Have you heard of the ‘you look so good!’ disconnect?”

 “I have a hunch, but go-ahead.”

 “In a nutshell, it refers to the often significant gap between friend’s and family’s perception of your level of disability, and reality. I think this is most commonly seen in the middle years of the disease, where your condition can vacillate between normal or near normal levels of ability, to utter… Everyone is affected somewhat differently -- poor mobility is my main impairment. At those off-times, if you lined me up with evolution on the left and global warming on the right, I would be safe money for the bronze. Compounding the misperception is the fact that most of us will tend to venture out during the "safe" periods where we are unlikely to experience failure.”

 “I know exactly what you’re saying. I'm guessing that meetings like this would be appealing. A set start time and a predictable finish would give you a great opportunity to nail the meds, right?”

 “Right, short surgical strikes are always fun :-) There are two disconnects on the go here - yours, and mine. Yours being that when you see me skip into Starbucks, you may easily assume that that is the norm - with no ability to fathom the utterly massive gap between my best and my worst. My disconnect? The fact that I get the warm fuzzies when you remark that I look so good - but I also experience a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I'm being deceitful in some way if I don't follow up their glowing assessment of me with at least some self deprecating comment indicating that not everything is peachy in Tinseltown. This may take the form of the humorous quip, ‘You look great!’ ‘Sure I do, but just wait five minutes’ :-)"

 “You know what people will say, Blair - people think you look good, and you're complaining? Just enjoy it - run with it!”

 “What's the problem you say? Well, none, if you're the kind of person who wants no one to worry about you, shares little, and is fine with that scenario. Fine, if you don't mind your physiotherapist thinking you are unreliable because you missed the last two appointments, when it is really due to a medication not kicking in and you are too proud to admit the truth. And, no problem if you don’t mind friends thinking that it sounds like they are booking an appointment when they want to drop by ‘sometime in the morning’.

Without dialogue and understanding of where you are in your battle, you are leaving interpretation of situations, decisions etc. to chance. If the people around you do not understand your Parkinson's, they will not really understand you. No, your Parkinson's does not define you, but it will ascribe meaning to a lot of your decisions and behaviours.”

 “Blair, your blog certainly goes a long way towards opening people up - but most people will still need a door left open if they are to join the conversation with you comfortably in person. Don't forget Parkinson's is usually not associated with laughter or jokes as you make it out to be. With most people but your closest friends, you will need to give permission to them to laugh with you or ask you. I think you'd be surprised. You and your friends are not as far apart as you think. Don't you see that you're playing the same chess game? They are likely waiting for some sort of permission from you to broach the topic - while you are waiting for some sort of signal that they are the kind of person that can handle the Buckley's. Don't forget, some may never want to touch this topic with a 10 foot pole.”

 "In the end, I suppose that yes, it is myself ultimately who is the gatekeeper. Disseminator of silliness, misinformation, and humour - and maybe I don't mind people thinking that I look really good, I just need to remind them that I do, and often have to, "cleanup really really well":-)

 “So what is your conclusion in the blog entry going to be?”

"What blog entry?”

 “Don't test me Blair - Remember, you're the one who sinned and you haven't told me how yet”.

"Damn, you've got good ears :-) “Dane, when we meet up for our interro-- um, I mean, um, interesting chats, I don’t feel any sympathy for my condition. We talk in practical, matter-of-fact terms, We have a dialogue going.Those kinds of conversations have a lot of value for me - as I think they would for anyone. Establishing or maintaining at least a minimal dialogue with someone who has Parkinson's is very useful indeed. Too often "talking and sharing" about a topic such as Parkinson's is encouraged as a way to unload, to vent, or to simply feel better without any other purpose. Though there's nothing wrong with a good vent, I see dialogue in this situation as a means to exchange the motivations and reasons behind actions and behaviour that may be otherwise misunderstood."


Confessional complete, I reached for my back pocket. Wallet - check...

[Comments? Like this post? Think I need another long break? Want to nominate me for an award? You can reach me personally at: blair.rasmussen@gmail.com