Who are you?

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In 1978, The Who released the song “Who Are You?” If you look at the words that describe me in my Twitter profile, you will find these words, in this order: Christian, veteran, husband, dad, nurse. If you look at the hash tags on my Instagram or my blogs, you can quickly figure out I am into fitness and biking, and that I have Parkinson’s as well. Now let me start out by saying that I haven’t written in a while, and one or two of you might have noticed that. I had a long break around Christmas (as most school folks do), and when I came back from the holidays, we had started a new freshman class of nurses, along with an upper level class, so things have just quieted down there.

I continue to go to the gym, and I ride as I can, daylight and weather permitting, in preparation for my 30 mile Peddlin for a Cure Ride. Great news is that my son is riding it as well, and I have a good friend who also may be a participant. But honestly, by far, the biggest change is I am now a student again. I am taking some required general education courses to prepare for completion of my RN. I am pretty excited, and also overwhelmed, which is why I may have to space my blogs out a bit this year. Working full time, returning to school, gym life, home life, church life, and life in general has pretty much filled my schedule. However, one promise I made to myself was to use the gift of writing I seem to have, and continue to encourage others as I can through whatever they may be facing.

Now back to ‘who are you’? I read a quote the other day that said something close to it’s not what they call you that matters; it only matters what you answer to. Now let that sink in a minute. How many days do we wake up worrying about what the world will think of us; our successes or failures, our beauty or scars, our wealth or poverty? We often use the wrong standard to measure where we are in our lives: someone else’s life. We can be trying to make ourselves look better or feel better, or we can be wishing that our lives were as good as _______’s. Truth is, we can be called loser or ugly or poor, and if that is what we believe, we will answer to that.  Rainer Wilke, Austrian poet said “If your daily life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth all its riches. For the creative, there is no poverty.” If you cannot find the good, the blessings that we have, even in the bad times, then we are truly poor, truly failing, truly ugly on the inside.

Now do I believe we cannot have bad days and everything is always good? Of course not, but before we get trapped by our circumstances, trapped by our disease, or even trapped by the world around us, we have got to search for the good that we in fact do have. I may get called a lot of things, and some not even pleasant. But I will always answer to winner, committed, focused, encourager, leader, and of course Batman or Chuck Norris. I saw a video referring to Chuck Norris, saying that “medicine takes Chuck Norris when it feels bad”. I hope to be the person that people can “take” when they feel bad. I hope to be, even in the weakness of Parkinson’s disease, a strength that can encourage the person who is in a bad place to dig a little deeper, and answer to what their inner warrior truly pushes them to be. And of course Batman. To my buddy Doug who may ride in the bike race, yes Doug, Batman is who I answer to.  Live loud and alive until we get back together!

#noquit #justbe #bike2live #litwithin #fitforlife #gymlife #move4PD #teamfox #parkinsons

https://justbejcarmichael.wordpress.com/

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Ah, The Safety of Puffalopes

636042411318026931-471225797_patrick_star_ice_creamsOut of all of the characters in the cartoon world, Patrick Star has to be my favorite. I know most of you may actually find SpongeBob Squarepants utterly annoying, but having a son who watched him growing up, and grandkids who watch him now, I have found Patrick to be the ultimate in things that make absolutely no sense, but are really senselessly funny. One of his most admirable quotes to me was when he said “It may be stupid, but it’s also dumb.”  Can you just see trying to argue with that logic? But crazily enough that logic is actually kind of sound in an odd sort of way.

Now I have to honestly say that while my Parkinson’s has changed me physically, the mental changes have by far been more challenging. My ability to focus and remain on task suffers greatly. It is sort of like this picture I saw that said “Roses are red, my name isn’t Dave, and this is really random, microwave.” It seems that’s how poetry goes for me anymore, and while frustrating, it can be equally hilarious as well. My memory, well, let’s just say I can’t actually remember when my memory actually worked like it was supposed to. Parkinson’s creates significant memory and cognitive loss, and can lead to Parkinson’s related dementia, so I decided to give up my memory in order to forget about the dementia. You spend a lot of time Knowing that while you have not completely lost your marbles, you realize that there is a hole in the bag, and you become very good at disguising that and hiding that from others.

With the cognitive and memory changes comes emotional changes as well, but I have actually found that my sense of humor has increased, and usually, the sillier something is, the more hilarious it is to me. Unfortunately, I am afraid this is annoying at times to those around me (much like Patrick), but I am glad that I am at least headed in that direction, instead of being depressed or sad, emotions that I also experience in pretty extreme ways sometimes. But anyhow, although this is pointless, I do have to get back to “It may be stupid, but it’s also dumb” point

This is not negative,  so that is why I wanted to pick some things that make me laugh, and also make little to no sense. I have some very important questions for you to think about in the first part. Question one: if I wasn’t meant to eat food in the middle of the night, why is there a light in the fridge? Question two: why is “W” called double-‘u’ when it is actually two V’s put together? Question three: what if Algebra teachers are really pirates, and when they tell us to find “x”, it’s so they can take the treasure?  Final question: Why is math the only place where someone can by 64 watermelons and nobody really cares why?

I also like words that are not real, but are so convincing in their use that you would think they were. I cannot take credit for these, but they are out there on the internet.

Jobfusticate – To arrange matters such that to other people your job appears to be so complex and technical that nobody else (least of all your boss) can understand exactly what it is you do

Outrance – The opposite of entrance.

Puffalope – One of those padded, puffy envelopes.

Opsablepsia – The inability to look someone in the eye

Fantabulous – An amalgamation of fantastic and fabulous.

Sploop – The flat, rounded corner that gets created when you drop your bar of soap in the shower.

Exhaustipated – Too tired to give a crap.

Please note that my favorite is lunch: a loved exercise somewhere between a lunge and a crunch. I love me some lunch.

Now, I know all of this may seem pointless, but I do believe laughter is some of the best medicine you can have, regardless of the struggle you are facing. You can read self-help manuals and study on logic like “when one door closes, another opens”, but I also believe that when one door closes, you just turn the doorknob and open it back up; that’s just how doors work. You may have days when you are holding a stick and everyone around you looks like a piñata, or you may experience those awkward moments when you take a shower in the middle of the afternoon and you don’t know whether to put on regular clothes or pajamas. Whatever comes around that tries to trip you up, find a way to laugh at it, and if it does happen to trip you up, wrap yourself in puffalopes so that the fall doesn’t hurt.

#noquit #justbe #bike2live #litwithin #move4PD #teamfox #parkinsons

https://justbejcarmichael.wordpress.com/

Make Your Fat Squall

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I have to say that I have been in similar contorted positions as the lady in this picture, and the good news is that it wasn’t from Parkinson’s disease. No, my contortions have resulted from soreness or cramps as a result of “gym time” or “arm day/leg day” or my favorite “pose in front of the mirror at the gym while I work out time”. Don’t act like you don’t catch the random occasional pose if you frequent the gym and get the chance to pass in front of a mirror. I will call you out if you won’t admit it. Now, please keep in mind that for those of you who don’t know me, I am not a fitness guru, nor am I some hulking beast who can’t fit into normal clothes because of the size of my muscles. Most of the time, if I can’t fit into normal clothes, it usually has to do with extra dessert or too much barbeque, and it usually only affects my waist. For those of you who do know me, you are simply saying “yep” to yourselves right now, and nodding in agreement.

For me, working out is not about sculpting the body. For me, working out is a necessity to take control of my body. It is no secret that I bike, but given my work hours, biking time struggles to happen in the winter, so I work out in a 24 hour gym. I use exercise as a complementary therapy to my medications, and to help build balance and strength. But trust me, even if your fight isn’t Parkinson’s, exercise, well that is one you have to ease into, sort of like those cheap “pleather” (plastic leather) shoes that you know you have to wear that will hurt your feet and give you blisters. It’s not going to be comfortable or pretty. As the years added up in my life, I honestly thought that if the good Lord had wanted me to touch my toes, He would have attached them to my knees instead of my feet. I found every reason in the world for most of my life to not exercise, but back in March, I was given one reason to not miss exercise in my life, and that was PD for me.

Now I am not one of those guys who is loudly exclaiming “Making excuses burns zero calories in an hour” or “Sweating comes from making your fat cry”, although the latter was kind of funny when I read it. I believe fitness actually draws on much more than our muscles, and actually grows much more than our muscles. There is a guy in the social media world that I have now had the pleasure of chatting with named Christian Banda. He is a fellow brother in the land of Parkinson’s, but this guy was the “First person with Parkinson’s to complete multiple Spartan Race obstacle course trifectas.” (It’s in quotes because that is straight out of his bio), but check him out at christianbanda.com. This guy is a Spartan beast, and he had these words to talk about fitness and PD: “PD is a part of me, but does not define me. In fact, it has elevated me to another level of grit, determination and perseverance that has transcended me in all aspects of my life.”

See, the really great part about challenges and the fitness and the fight that we bring to those challenges will actually make us greater as individuals. We suddenly find the warrior inside of us, and find a new fight in us each day. But even greater, our lives transform into the positive, and to coin the words of the artist Thomas Kinkade, suddenly, “I am a warrior for light.” That is why you see the #litwithin in my blogs or on Christian’s pages or Ninja Warrior Allie Toepperwein’s pages because we are not letting PD darken us, but instead to make us warriors for the light that is inside each of us, the light that you too carry inside of you. It is also the hashtag for www.LitWithin.org, an organization with the mission to empower people with disease of any kind and at any age. Donated funds are used to support various causes and outreach, and to educate and inspire people to take their lives back from their disease that grips them. Look for the ‘donate’ button. My soreness, my cramps, my contorted body when I wake up with that in the middle of the night is a wonderful reminder of how my light is growing inside, and how PD is actually shrinking when it comes to who I am. Remember your strength today, and remember to make your fat squall like a baby in the gym, but please use deodorant before you do. Have fun!

#noquit #justbe #bike2live #litwithin #move4PD #teamfox #parkinsons

https://justbejcarmichael.wordpress.com/

Wet Sock Moods

mood-swingsPublishing early due to an MD appointment tomorrow. Robin Williams once said “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” There is no doubt that the ending to his life was a sad one, battling depression and Lewy Body Disease, but the contributions from his life were quite colorful and memorable. His ability to use humor and what I call “upstream” behavior to make many people laugh, or even just take a moment from difficulty to smile, were truly a gift.

I saw the picture of mood swings, and sort of chuckled to myself, thinking about things that can cause my mood to swing on a given day. Of course, there is the elephant in the room (Parkinson’s), which can affect me in terrible ways physically and emotionally, and sometimes, even minute by minute. Also, like anyone else, I can get caught up in the bitterness, smallness, or insecurities of someone else, and I let that ruin my mood as well. I do often say that we control our own feelings, so I just remind myself at those times that it could be worse; I could be them. Finally, one huge game changer for swinging a mood is stepping in water when you are just wearing socks. That one will make you go right back to bed, just saying.

But honestly, when I feel things trying to pull me into a negative way, I resort to my old friend humor. Now I have to be honest, I have been told that I can be sort of silly. I have even been told that maybe I could act my age a little more, and even that I need to act a little more normal. Well, I have to tell that I tried being normal one time, but I found it to be extremely boring, so I just went back to being myself. As far as acting 50, I can’t really decide what that is supposed to be like, And silly? Well check these little jokes out:

Did you hear about the two guys who stole a calendar? They each got 6 months.

If you ever get cold, just stand in a corner. They are usually around 90 degrees.

Why can’t bicycles stand on their own? They are just two tired.

What is the best nation in the world? Donation, now give me 10 bucks.

Now you know you grinned at least once, and if you didn’t, then you may have a condition called masked expression that is associated with Parkinson’s because I know these jokes were stupid funny! The best part of it all is that if you were reading this and smiled or laughed, that is exactly what I wanted to happen. Mood swings, as the picture shows, affect all of us. Our emotions are a huge part of who we are, and who we are is often defined by the world that surrounds us, or the struggles we carry, or the actions we offer to others. We should always strive to define that for ourselves instead.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” If I live my life so that it is only about me, then that will be all that I have left at the end. Instead, I want to live my life in a way so that I do not have to introduce myself, where people know that they will be encouraged, that they will smile and laugh when they are around me, and that they will feel valued and cared about for who they are. I do not want to fit in the box that the world tells me that a 50 year old man should fit in. I want to turn that box into a mad race car and drive it all around the neighborhood. But do remember this, if you are with me, and we get caught, you are deaf and I don’t speak English. And try not to worry about the world ending today. It is already tomorrow in Australia! I will be taking next week off to enjoy the holidays with my family, so Happy Thanksgiving, and BE THANKFUL!!!!!

#noquit #justbe #bike2live #litwithin #move4PD #teamfox #parkinsons

https://justbejcarmichael.wordpress.com/

 

RAWR (Dinosaurically Speaking)

dinosaurSince tomorrow is Veteran’s Day, and I am a veteran, I decided to publish today, and enjoy the day tomorrow that has been set aside to recognize those who have served, and continue to serve today. Thank you to my brothers and sisters out there for your service. My blog this week is a little different, and I know I haven’t posted in a couple of weeks, but for those of you who read and do not know, I lost my mom on October 27th at the age of 68. She has been battling a terminal lung disease for a while, along with the painful effects of osteoporosis and kyphosis. The picture I picked for my blog today was one I posted on my mom’s Facebook one day when she was having a really tough week. I had the simple post of “Hey mom, I drew this just for you today. I love you.” Even though she knew darn well I didn’t draw it, she truly loved the post, telling me later how much it made her smile that day, making her think of me when I was a little boy.

If my mom would have one word to describe me, she would use “aggravating”. When we would go and visit, her favorite saying was “you have been here 10 minutes, and I am about to send you home.” Now we both knew she wasn’t going to make me drive that 9.5 hours back home, but she was feisty like that. Honestly, it was all in good fun. My mom and I shared the same sneaky sense of humor, pranking others, scaring others, and really just trying to stay on the positive side of things by laughing heartily. She was a lot of fun, even during her sickest of times, and I could always crawl up next to her, and share some laughs over some of the dumbest things.

When she felt good, we would play board games every now and then, and her favorite was Yahtzee. She was highly competitive, something that is ingrained in my genes. She was always playing her “last round”, unless of course I won, then we had to play just one more. She had a beautiful heart, and a love that was incredible. She was a tiny little woman who made a big splash in the lives of those around her, sharing a huge smile, a strong faith, and a needed correction when you had it coming. She was an incredible fighter, and fiercely loyal to her family. I still think of my son’s post on Facebook after he learned of her passing: “Sweet and sour, mixed like a hurricane; she had it all.” I believe he wasn’t way off of the mark on that one.

I had the blessing of performing her service, something she asked me to do a few months back. As I prepared the words, Proverbs 31:10-31 came to mind, “The Wife of Noble Character”, which I shared as part of the message. I also shared “The Journey of a Mother” which I found on the internet. I have no idea who wrote it, but I want to share it with you, as I shared it at her service as well.

“A mother is more than a memory. She is a living presence. Your mother is always with you. She is the whisper of the leaves as you walk down the street, the smell of certain foods you remember, and the perfume that she wore. She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, and she’s your breath in the air on a cold winter’s day. She is the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, and she is Christmas morning. Your mother lives inside your laughter and she is crystallized in every teardrop. A mother shows every emotion… happiness, sadness, fear, jealousy, love, hate, anger, helplessness, excitement, joy, sorrow… and all the while, hoping you will only know the good feelings in life. She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on earth can separate you; not time, not space….. not even death.”

If your mom is still alive, love her more, hug her more, and take time with her more; those moments are precious. If your mom is with my mom, remember that she is a living presence. You are never separated from her, so the moments you have with her, just as I have with my mom now, are especially precious. Listen to the whisper of the leaves, and smile, because mom is ALWAYS love.

#noquit #justbe #bike2live #litwithin #move4PD #teamfox #parkinsons

https://justbejcarmichael.wordpress.com/

Shoe Tying Power

da89ba86166d500c3b0c13f1e2e45969One of the greatest challenges that I think an individual can face during a struggle is a loss of independence, a sudden need to rely on someone else, or to have to ask for help, especially when you have felt you were in control of your life prior to that point. I know that rings true with me as I journey through life with PD. As my handwriting has grown smaller and my voice patterns have changed and my movements have slowed, by far, tying my shoes and buttoning my shirts, all own my own and like a big boy, are two of the things I miss the most. Now this is not an everyday occurrence, but when it does happen, and I need help, I might as well be attempting to pilot a space shuttle or something. Like the picture, I feel like that T-rex trying to tie his shoes because the obstacle is so great; that one simple activity that I have performed tens of thousands of times in my life suddenly becomes impossible, and is horribly out of reach of my capabilities at that time.

Believe me, anger and frustration aren’t the only emotions you feel. Often, the feelings grow into sadness or helplessness or even a state of wondering if you are actually useful. Yep, those are generally kind of rough starts to my day. It breaks your heart inside, and you just feel like there is a giant foot stepping on your very soul like a bug. It is during those times I do draw on my faith, and one of my favorite verses from when my dad passed was Psalm 34:1, “The Lord draws near to those who are brokenhearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” I know I have family and friends who support me in many ways during the rough times, but I also realize that my soul, the warrior spirit inside of me, is never alone. I realize that a broken clock is right twice a day and that broken crayons still color. I realize that my hands may be full with handling PD, but my heart is much more full of encouragement and love and the desire to positively impact someone else’s life.

Each of us, if we truly take the time to realize it, have a huge power within us to first fight through a struggle that we may be facing, but an ever greater power to come along side someone and help them with their struggle. There is a Jewish proverb that says “I ask not for a lighter burden, but broader shoulders.” Any struggle you face today simply develops the strength you will need for tomorrow, and one of the greatest gifts you can offer is to use that strength to help with another’s burden. To me, that is what truly being our best is about: the ability to care enough for another, placing our own struggle aside, and helping them through their struggle. The personal growth we experience and the strength we gain from that will help our own struggles become lighter, and will develop a tremendous power to overcome what we face.

I read a short poem once that said, “Some days are better, some days are worse. Look for the blessing, instead of the curse. Be positive, stay strong, and get enough rest; you can’t do it all, but you can do your best.” No matter the struggle, there will be good days and bad days, but they will all contain blessings. Your best may not be much on some of those bad days, but as long as it is your best, it will always be enough. And always during the sad parts of the struggle look for the positive. You have great power inside of you, so remember the old Confucius saying “With great power comes great electric bill.” He really didn’t say that, but even though a part of you may be broken, broken crayons still really do color, and leave behind beautiful and lasting images.

https://justbejcarmichael.wordpress.com/

Hot Dog Wisdom

32d03f510ce4bf32d8f81750988e013aMan the memories of hot dogs on a Saturday, and eating them on sandwich bread as a kid. I still do sometimes because it’s not really a struggle for me. Neither is turning 50. You may have guessed, today is my birthday. I have made the half century mark, the big “five ohhhhh my goodness.” It’s pretty cool that the same year I started a blog, I actually get to publish one on my birthday. What else is 50 this year? That amazing game changing invention: AstroTurf! Please note that Batman is also 50 this year, and it is no coincidence that you never see the two of us in the same room. One of my favorites, Doritos, is also 50 years old, and I celebrate them by dredging them through sour cream, just prior to munching down on them (probably why I have a statin prescription). And finally, for all of you really cool hip teenage kids who enjoy skateboarding and the like, Vans shoes are also celebrating 50 years this year. So contrary to your opinion, us old guys were cool on skateboards long before you were.

As I turn 50, and move forward through fighting PD, I do try daily to stay focused on the positive things in my life, and even the positive things of living long enough to be as old as Doritos. This week, I read a list of good things about turning fifty, and it included some references to appreciating life more and not worrying about the small stuff and being able to laugh at ourselves and of course, several references about learning and wisdom. You can wear funny sweaters in public, wearing your hair gray is perfectly acceptable (only true in my beard since I am bald), and suddenly, just as if you found childhood again, nap time is fun all over again, and actually needed to root out the grumpiness of being sleepy.

As for appreciating life and being able to laugh at myself (and others), and nap time; I have to say I am 100% on board there. Wisdom? Well, let’s just say that I learned so much from my mistakes in the first 50 years that I am most likely going to make some more, you know, just so I can get a little smarter. I also know that sometimes, as we get older, we wonder how useful our lives have been. I do know for certain that there were points in my life that could have been used as bad examples, and while it was some tough learning for me, I don’t necessarily regret it as it has helped shape me into who I am. I also have some points where my life can be used as a good example, and I hope that my hard earned wisdom is letting me leave more of that legacy each day I wake up.

At the point I decided to take charge of my life with PD, I made a decision to make my life one that is marked by encouragement for others, a life of drive and achievement and motivation, a life that doesn’t quit, that swims upstream, and that stands out when others just need a smile. I work hard each day, trying not to wrap myself up in what can hold me back, but instead trying to point out what someone else has in them to move them forward, to pick them up, and to help them realize the strength within them, and to certainly encourage them to do that with someone else. What a great world we would share in if we each made it a point to leave a positive “hashtag” in someone’s life daily. I read a quote that said “Success consists of doing the common things of life uncommonly well.” Be extraordinary daily, and impact someone else’s life positively today. And try the Doritos thing with the sour cream. And be different; eat your hot dog on sandwich bread as well; it really isn’t a struggle at all.

#noquit #justbe #bike2live #litwithin #move4PD #teamfox #parkinsons

https://justbejcarmichael.wordpress.com/