Monday, March 29, 2010

Dancing With the Stars

Maria and I started a ballroom dancing class tonight. It may be a disaster but its worth a try. I was kind of run over trying to process it and losing it. Rhythm, right and left and count are okay, but when you put them together it is a disaster. Add to that we are somewhat different sizes.

In the end I am sore, since I don't move that way, have a headache and need a lot to practice if my partner will help. No TV dancing quite yet. The crazy part was trying to process it all, though I am not sure I could have before the stroke. I understand 11/12 time from the Dead but I have a harder time with a simple foxtrot. Fortunately there are no pictures.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Pranks From A Prankster

I will try again to put up the link to Stewart Brand's site but I have been dealing with some Internet Explorer issue, probably compounded by Norton. And computer's make our lives simpler. Reading Whole Earth Discipline, I wonder sometimes if Brand is pranking us, but I know better. But as he makes a case for nuclear power and talks of the power of the cell phone propelling growth in the slums of India and the recapturing of the rain forest with second growth, he is calmly rational like he always has been.

Sure this was the Prankster at the Acid Tests, but he did his stint in the army, did post grad at Stanford and then published a series of books that showed how anything was possible. And then when he was done with that he wrote an influential critique of architecture. Brand has always managed to be a somewhat sane voice providing stability while walking the edge. He does again, showing a way through the climate crisis.

If you were in Rochester today you wouldn't have thought there was a crisis, 25 degrees when St. Lawrence met RIT in the Genesee. I got cold, but I lost interest too. In my continuing comparison to watching Cross Country Skiing, it is almost as bad, you can see the boats longer then the skiers because the boats are bigger and rivers are less dense than the woods they usually have cross country meets in. Francis' boat won its match beating RIT boat 2 or something by a length. I am looking forward to possibly seeing some meets in warmer weather, the two I have seen have taken place on good cold days. And I'm not the one in spandex close to the water.

I have to mention here that my youngest brother rowed for Hamilton College. John, thanks for reading here and the positive emails. It's nice to read and thank you. And some shots of little boats on a brown river.

Oh yes, links still not working, but we have pictures... manual works

Friday, March 26, 2010

Welcoming the Weekend

Maria's sister Elle and her husband Wayne are on their way down to watch their son Francis row tomorrow as St. Lawrence U Crew meets RIT on the Genesee. Crew may top cross country skiing as the most painful to watch, it may not be as cold but you see less. You get a shot as the boat goes by, while in ski meets you get to see the start and finish usually and maybe even a lap. It will be fun regardless. If I get one I will post a picture tomorrow.

Hopefully it will be warmer and I can get on the bike too. Although it was sunnier today it never got much above freezing. I may have a challenge coming, my friend Steve has posted he rode 55 miles this week. He lives in a slightly nicer climate where it doesn't rain as much. Ferocity of some storms make up for that.

I am pretty talked out, having visited a lot and then having a phone it court appearance. More tomorrow.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New Book!

I have to write more about these books I read, thumbs up for In Defense of Food and Bicycle Diaries. Growing Up Dead gets so so marks. Food Rules will continually be quoted. If you hadn't guessed, I like Michael Pollan.

The new selection is Whole Earth Discipline, An Ecopragmatist Manifesto by Stewart Brand. I enjoyed the Whole Earth Catalogs growing up before the Internet. Sure you can find anything on Google now but the Catalogs brought everything interesting and radical in on large book. You didn't need to search, just turn the page. I wonder where the books are now. One of the best parts where the pages on Volkswagen's. It's almost hard to imagine a car you could rip the engine apart on and find every part in the JC Whitney catalog.

With its hippie slant the Whole Earth Catalog provided guidance. I am excited to read the manifesto. Brand may just provide a road map through the crises facing us today. You can find out about Stewart Brand, his work and books at:
Of course tonight my links aren't working. I promise to post a link soon. And another book of his of interest, How Buildings Learn.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bike Update, Revisited and Another Sign of Spring!

Visiting with Karen brought a whole bunch of new things today. I am now on Facebook, God forbid, but I'll give it a try. I want to draw attention to surviving a stroke and it is another medium. I have been tired all day as expected and from writing this morning. But since the sun is out I rode the bike down to my little office and back. I had some things to fax and go through and just get out of Maria's hair. I will write more about the office some time, it is in an old factory building on the canal which housed the American Can Company and the Crossman Air Gun company. It is a perfect example of creative and adaptive reuse.

This bicycling still needs a lot of practice, but each day makes it a little easier. This time I didn't bother checking the distance but was watching the speed some. I made it further up the hill and the ramp off the canal trail. Most importantly it feels better. I bought a mirror at RVE and put it on today. We both need some adjustment to be useful but it feels like it helps.

For the fun of it here is the bike, tricked out with a new mirror. Sorry kids, your father is a dork. I can't walk a Wonderdog with the bike though so I have to sign off and find another mailbox post.

After walking out the door, I knew I had to get a picture... Spring is here! Now if I could do a better job of placing pictures.

Stroke Resources

Following my conversation with Karen yesterday, I started googling stroke survivor groups this morning. On a positive note I found one fairly locally that meets Monday morning at guess where? McDonald's. So I can add to my cholesterol, salt and refined corn sugar intakes while I discuss surviving what these have helped to cause. I won't write group off yet but it is starting on shaky footing.

As I have mentioned before you start with a cardio-pulmonary problem and you are left with brain injury. Because of the vastness of the brain, this affects everyone differently. My dad lost his peripheral vision or more on one side. I lost some of the ability to speak and lost some coordination on the right side. There is no set pattern of what goes, no set treatment for what is lost and no set recommended recovery. I was besieged by Physical Therapists and Occupational
Therapists in the hospital, but I could walk a straight line, climb stairs and get a fork to my mouth.

I really couldn't tell what fine motor skills I had lost as there were no outside world tests in the hospital. The night I came home I was dying for a plate of pasta, and probably made a linguine with clam sauce, a favorite. Cooking was doable but when it came to eating, I found pasta running down my face and had a very hard time dealing with the strings in my mouth. When I finally got to have my first beer, I couldn't drink from the bottle with out some running down the side of my face.

A lot of this was helped by a few sessions with a speech therapist, something I never got in the hospital. Surprisingly this was limited. Once I was given the okay to drive I lost my in home services and coverage for them because I was mobile. I also had progressed to a point where speech therapy considered me cured enough, they wouldn't make strides, there were only subtle changes that I could see. But I didn't feel cured.

In my last appointment with my doctor, he said I had made most of the physical progress I would make with speaking and mouth control. Yes it would continue, but I was mostly healed. I understand this, the rest is mental, getting the words out, the way I eat and more. These will take longer to heal and reconnect.

Some time I am going to leave what I actually type as an entry, instead of the corrections as I go. Typing is easier than speaking sometimes but has its own set of problems. My right hand tends to miss where it is supposed to go. Some of that may be from the incident which left a scar across that hand, requiring a plastic surgeon to reattach some tendons and may have damaged more. That was close to 15 years ago so I don't think that is the cause. I learned and relearned to keyboard on a variety keyboards and laptops. (One of these days I want to get a portable typewriter just to try it again. I wonder where you find them? Ebay? But I digress.)

With the President's health care bill passing and listening to some of the fallout I have to note another problem noted with stroke care. Sadly stroke is a problem which predominately effects the African American community. Yes, upper middle class whites also get them but not on a regular basis. The way this is pointed out is sad at best. It is a disease that affects humans and each one differently. I don't even know if you can call it a disease. It is complicated and troubling and can leave a devastating aftermath. While there are known causes, it can strike anyone for no reason and leave them changed in ways they can't comprehend.

I will keep looking for stroke resources and maybe start a few of my own. It's the least I can do.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lunch with Karen

Rochester is again sunken under concrete skies and cold, miserable rain. But it comes with spring and is necessary for the growth that comes later and the green that is already taking over. The bike now is just sitting in the garage, the heat is back on and the Wonderdog's walks are a little shorter. He makes up for it by pulling more and heading in more directions. I am creating a dog with a neck of mythic strength.

I did venture out into the gray to have lunch with my old friend Karen P., who runs the financial end of the timber frame company I worked for several years ago. I should note that I really don't mind rain as much as it sounds and I really enjoy the company of the people I met at New Energy Works. I passed the architect on the canal trail Saturday and ran into a former timber framer Friday night at a Fairport bar.

Karen is one of the special people you meet and come to love though. We always appreciated each others strange sense of humor and cynicism. Karen is biologically old enough to be my mother, though it would have been frowned on if she had had me at 17. Her oldest is a little younger than me but enough to make her respectable. It was funny, I was regularly warned about what a evil bitch she was when I started there. We took care of each other in funny ways there.

But after a shaky start and her not being there, the restaurant being closed and such we finally found one another and a place to eat. She had been in a meeting which ran long, which I remember too well. It was great to see her though. Talking about the stroke she put her finger right on what I feel all the time. I described my fatigue and she said it was the way she felt trying talk or follow a conversation in Spanish when she visits South America. "You don't feel sleepy, you just feel like your head will explode and it's too much." I am probably paraphrasing a lot here, but it suddenly dawned on me what was happening. I was trying to speak a new language, the one I have always known.

The brain forms the idea, the mouth works but there is a discord and my head wants to explode after a few minutes of trying. She and a lot of others have told me I sound much better than when we spoke closer to the stroke. I know I am getting better, but I am more reserved and quieter now. Sadly this drives Maria crazy as quick simple meaningless responses often come right off my tongue. A lot of times it is all I can say and don't realize I even say it.

Karen is leaving for Europe shortly. She works very hard for someone who could be retired but also rewards her self well. It was nice and left me exhausted and a happy. We promised each other a dinner at "The Palace" I think she called it. A wonderful little shack her beau is rebuilding on a widewaters on the canal. It will be fun, maybe even for Maddy.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Bicycle Dairies

I am trying to remember if I bought Talking Heads 77 or More Songs About Building and Cars first. Some of my memories from college are fuzzy at best and I gave up on vinyl a long time ago. I bought an MP3 player from Amazon yesterday, something I thought I would never do, another media medium.

But I loved the sparse sound and frenetic energy of the Talking Heads and still listen to them regularly. "Life in Wartime," "Psycho Killer," and "Take Me to the River" with David Byrne singing and Tina Weymouth driving a bass line and the funky urban sound made a lasting impression. The later music was a little softer but still fun and unique. As you can tell I will never be a music critic, but I enjoy very much.

So I spent the weekend reading David Byrne's Bicycle Dairies. We have lost a lot of our vision riding or driving in cars. I think you see a lot more moving slower under your own power. And Byrne shares what he has seen. Interestingly the book opens in Buffalo and Rochester. They could have fared better, but are treated pretty well. It is enjoyable to read. Back to reading...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Eating After A Stroke

I started cooking a big pot of beef lentil soup this afternoon, shortly after today's bike ride. I soaked the lentils and grabbed some stew beef from the freezer earlier in the week so decided they better become soup or they would be pitched. Unfortunately I have never learned to cook soup for less than an army, so a lot gets pitched anyways. The way some things are packaged doesn't help.

Living in the land of Wegmans Food Markets, I could probably buy an easy serve microwavable container in a single serving size. Wegmans loves selling value added products. The latest campaign is Make it or Take it. I try to make it most of the time, saving some on the food and some on the packaging. Okay I have been known to get smaller portions of the seafood bisque and some times the quiche, partially because I cant store and use all the ingredients and use them in time. (Food Rules, #13, Eat only foods that will eventually rot.) Wegmans does not have an additive aisle yet. The pre-made foods found at a later date in the back of fridge seem to rot. Along with some of unused ingredients.

You try your best. I also claim one immunity idol, cooking for a teenager I have only started to feed recently, though we share a love of Pop-Tarts. And I regularly buy green grapes so Maria can make a grape salad we had at her Aunt's, but they don't last that long. I don't always fare so well.

My cholesterol levels were high at the time of the stroke but went right down with some minor medication and when I cut out going out for lunch every day. Lately I have noticed my diet creeping back to prepared foods and more junk food and less veggies. Some of this is seasonal, spring, summer and fall we enjoy a very good and well established farmers market. We come home with bags of fresh picked food and a lot of the excess goes in the freezer or is planned for the freezer. Okay, some things we miss on go in the compost. It starts soon, and I can't wait.

Year round I try to make soup. Most are good but some are pretty bad. Since quitting smoking I don't use as much seasoning (except in gumbo, which should burn you), but also don't use much salt, you can always add it, I won't get offended. I have also try to get a salad in every day and have a banana and apple juice with my morning pills. It is hard to know what to cook or eat when a lot of food at the grocery has visited more countries than you. And is packaged more stylishly.

It takes work and that bag of chedder Cheez Curls is awfully inviting along with a couple other processed food products. I don't really miss the Pop-Tarts. Having a stroke makes it easier to try. Not having another is enough reason to try.

The other part of the equation is exercise and I made some nice strides on the bike. Two things are driving me crazy: I can't turn and look behind me and I have a hard time figuring out where things are on my right. The first was a real pain trying to turn left in traffic. It is going to take some work. The second is more annoying and almost as dangerous. Curbs tend to be on your right and the canal is on your right traveling east on the canal trail. The canal was strangly unnerving.

Am I faced with always traveling west and sticking to curbless roads? I have heard of people who also drive avoiding left hand turns. If I stick to certain routes I could probably make it all work but I am not sure I could go any place. I might better get a stand for the bike, park it in front of the TV and place a remote in the bottle cage. On a positive note, my brother wants me to join him riding the canal trail this summer. He is planning on going west.

Nine Months

Tomorrow will mark 9 months since the stroke. I finished Growing Up Dead last night, I will just say "What a long, strange trip it's been." I think it will be strange a while longer also. So the reading list will be changing, I will be starting David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries next.

I survived a longer bike ride yesterday. Now I need to spend some time tweaking the bike to make it more comfortable. And getting some stamina back. Some of my problem goes beyond the stroke and comes from being married to a desk for 5 or more years before it. I always stayed "pretty active" and of course I always smoked. So in addition to what ever damage the stroke did, I have a lot of unhealthy living to make up for.

I can change things now and I am changing things. Again, as I try things I could do I realize more little things I have lost. I also notice polar problems, my right side definitely being weaker and less coordinated. Some of that may have always been the case, but now it is noticeable. When writing here or working with a CAD program, there are lots of little issues. I don't know how much compensation I had learned, I only know how much I am relearning.

But I can and do relearn, and do get stronger. It's a long strange trip.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bicycle Continued...

It was another beautiful day here, it's now after 6 and the sun is still shining and the temperature is down to 59. Not too shabby for the land of 61 sunny days. I put shorts on and got the bike out again, determined to do a little better than yesterday. After the obligatory pumping of the tires which I didn't do a very good job of yesterday, I headed off again. Well after grabbing sunglasses, putting on the helmet and downing a couple of cheddar Cheez Curls.

I headed down the hill and into the neighborhood I roam on foot with the Wonderdog. After taking the first turn a little quickly and almost heading across a lawn I settled down aided by a gradual up hill. A couple of turns later I was heading down Hamilton and then onto Rt. 31F, sharing the road with traffic and more than a few trucks.

I cut back onto the road leading home pedaled some and then walked the bike up the hill. Walking, I did not feel defeated at all. I had ridden the road, it felt pretty good and my balance wasn't too bad. Speed and strength would come.

I went out a little later and for the fun of it, clocked it, I picked up a new battery for the computer but have not had a chance to put it in. I rode a total of 2.4 miles. My friend BMike started his season with a 36 mile ride but he also rides from Burlington to Utica. I do have a few years on Mike but with its meager mileage today was a major triumph.

It ranks up there with the first time I ran around a court and hit a tennis ball again and the first time I drove more than an hour alone. Maria and I were talking this morning about how things feel for me, I felt exhausted yesterday, but it may have been a combination of things. Everything I do again I am relearning in some way. I don't know how or what, but it is mentally taxing. Somethings come right back it seems. I quickly regained all the strength on my right side, which I dragged for a short time after the stroke. Since I started this blog I realize I can't type nearly as well with my right hand as I could before. Well I had a pretty good idea of that, but didn't type that much.

I'm not letting it stress me out, I am relearning and practicing. Maria picked up another book on strokes and brain injuries, where the stroke hit me, had it been worse, I would not be walking or talking. Instead, after 9 months, I can ride my bike. I count my blessings.

Life Skills

Everyone needs to learn to drive on ice. Enjoy:

Happy St. Patricks Day!

May the luck of the Irish be with you.

It's a beautiful sunny one here and I am going out to enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


Spring sprung again today and I brought the bike home. A quick ride around the circle after pumping up the tires and checking things. The computer has a dead battery but it wont matter, I wont be riding real far. It felt wonderful, but was tiring. New muscles, I really didn't ride last year.

But there is a more too it, it isn't uncomfortable, but it takes more work. It's a funny feeling. I keep running into this. I just have to go slow. We spent a lot more time working in the garage, we have too much stuff. I can let go of it easily (except my books) but it is understandably tougher for Maria. We're getting started and have a great week to work on it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Daylight Savings Time

Why does daylight saving time make us so tired? I already have enough problems with tired that I don't need another irritant. Okay I like the extra hour of daylight, but it is not really an extra hour. The Wonderdog is completely confused but is enjoying his long walks earlier.

It looks like another fine week and the bike comes out tomorrow, but the car goes back in the shop. The check engine light was off when I picked it up Friday but was on again today. Serves me right for having a car with over 150,000 miles on it. The Amazon link is up and I may add some more books but not for a while. I love my books. Next on the read list is David Byrne's Bicycle Dairies. Byrne is the former front man for the Talking Heads as most probably know and a bicycle rider. I have heard it is good but will let you know.

I am a firm believer in bicycles as means of transportation. It is a very hard concept for Americans since we live in this sprawl which isn't set up for bikes. It is slowly but surely taking hold. I plan to use mine a lot.

Now two nights ago it was an hour earlier and I would not have been tired...


And I finished In Defense of Food. I will write more about it soon, it is well worth reading. But I went to the Stroke Association page and was subscribing to my free Stroke magazine and there is a picture of Jill Bolte Taylor. This is becoming more and more like: "Who are these Grateful Dead, and why are they following me?"

Signs of a Stroke and these are better than some I have seen, and I only had two signs and none were sudden:

Stroke is a medical emergency. Know these warning signs of stroke and teach them to others. Every second counts:
Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding
Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

Sunday, March 14, 2010

"In Defense of Food"

I have spent a good part of the day and evening reading Michael Pollan's In Defense of Food. It is pretty powerful. How much of this bad eating and food led to my stroke?

I eat pretty well now, but I could do a whole lot better. Between the processing of food, the canning of food and the packaging of food, eating can be discouraging. Though I choose plastic bags at the store so I don't have to buy bags for walking a certain Wonderdog. Don't get me going on that. Going back to reading. And trying to remember, do I have an extra hour or one less?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Going Commercial

I have decided to add Amazon Associates to this for the one reason of giving people an easy way to buy "My Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor. I may get rich on this one yet. I doubt it, but I think it is an important book and did a lot to get my head around what happened. And what happened to me was nothing like what happened to her. Strokes come in two varieties, clots and bleeds. In a clot, like mine, a blood clot cuts off blood to a section of the brain. Jill had a bleed, where a blood vessel bursts and cut off blood to a section of the brain and causes the additional problem of hemorrhaging and swelling.

But my little brother emailed me that he had just heard of the book and read the following about it: I have just finished reading an amazing book called "My Stroke of Insight" by Jill Bolte Taylor. It's about a neuroscientist who ironically suffers from a large hemorrhagic stroke into the left side of her brain. She writes about the process of recovery and what it was like to feel at one with the universe, and concerned with the now, rather than thinking about yesterday and tomorrow. She is also given a talk on Oprah -- if you wish to hear her speak. I am always needing to remind myself to be more "right brained" letting the energy of the universe fill me and extend it to those around me. When my left-brain scripts are operating more strongly than they should I have filled with anxiety, regrets, resentment.

I understand it is good if you haven't had the stroke and I wish strokes on no one. Now the problem is actually getting this to work as I am a little thick doing this sort of thing. It may take a couple of days to get this to work. I can always blame it on the stroke.

I have mixed feelings about this, I like Amazon and buy from them regularly. I am becoming more and more of a locavore shopping for anything. But as far as books I can deal with Barnes and Noble or Borders, and neither is really local. And the selection/inventory is wonderful. It still bothers me some, but I may link some other books that are important to me. We will see where it goes, but if you can please buy locally.

Saturday Morning

And I should be eating cereal while watching cartoons. Now I wonder if that still happens? Maddy doesn't watch cartoons, but Meg and Ned did for a while. Then you hit an age and you just sleep in, the closer to noon you make it the cooler you are.

Its a gray one here, spitting rain sometimes and windy. It is too bad because Maddy wanted to go skiing today. She had someone set to go but they backed out after the weather forecast said rain. Skiing in rain is really no fun, okay I did at her age, but you get wet. Ski clothes are for snow and cold, not really for rain. If it clears a little I may take her, but then will she be seen with a very uncool stepfather it rented skis? I have offered a couple of times but been turned down.

Skiing is like the bicycle, I have to try to see if I can do it post stroke. I grew up on skis, with a ski hill with rope tow in my aunt and uncle's back yard. It was a mile or two away as the crow flies, and you could ski to across a field, over a bridge, up a hill and into their driveway. It was easier to wait for a ride in the station wagon. We raced, we went over jumps, one cousin won the state high school championship. I got close to the state meet but never made it, I think I may have been an alternate my senior year.

I skied some in college, graduated to cross country skis at some point, did the telemark thing, then dragged my old skis out and tried it again. I always tried to get out once a year and I was pretty good. No flips, helicopters or moguls courses and no slalom gates, but it was good to be out. I rented the new shape skis and they worked. It was fun.

The rain has picked up so today is not looking too promising, maybe we can try the St. Patrick's parade instead. Standing in the rain in crowd of drunken Irishmen who aren't Irish is almost as much fun as skiing in the rain. Actually the skiing is more fun.

And now for something totally different, a Saturday morning cartoon: (Thank you Bob for the video)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

One More Sunny One!

Just back from Farmer Erin's where we were putting together at steel framed canopy she will cover with a used billboard. I will pay for that one tomorrow. A small price, it was great to be out in the sun with the temps around 60 and maybe higher. But damn am I out of shape. All this walking a little dog only helps so much. The warmth was as tiring as the work, and I learned I don't bend that well. It will be a while before I call anyone about framing jobs.

I went through a period this winter thinking that I needed to be back at work and I would be, come hell or high water. I had a couple of interviews and thank god I didn't get the jobs. Now bear in mind I want to work, I find not working against my nature. I made it through the interviews, but then slept a lot of the next day. Sometimes I felt on, but I had a hard time carrying the momentum.

Not working also gave me the chance to beat myself up about it. Am I getting too lazy? Am I just doing this because I can? Why didn't I just get off my ass! I had a number of articles on starting, getting motivated, shipping and any number of other names for getting moving. I agreed with them all, started some letters, started to make calls. And then the fatigue set in. This wasn't about jumping, shipping, starting or any of that. It was real. And it hurt.

A trip to a Physiologist in the beginning of February probably helped the most and hurt the worst. I was about where I should be in my recovery. Strokes are brain injuries, though I got an argument from my mother that it was a heart problem. Sure it may be caused by cardiovascular problems. But the physiologist made some recommendations and then in one killer move recommended I look at VESID, vocational training. I wouldn't be going back to the glass world at the top of my game, I could find another career, something less.

I think it stung through most of February. But I had insurance, I had applied for Social Security Disability. That in itself stung, a label and a come down. I was a glass professional, one of the best and now facing retraining and being on Social Security. Gone were the bonuses, the car, the gas card. Yeah it was high stress but I liked it, VESID won't send me to Vegas. Why don't they give me a walker and some Depends?

I hit a turning point and a trip to my doctor's helped. He is a year or so younger, went to Syracuse when I was at LeMoyne and we probably have mutual friends, we don't explore that. He has been a big help from the beginning. Writing has helped, and the promise of drawing, and the promise of spring. Some sun before a snow storm helped. Funny what sun can do.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

In From Walk

The Wonderdog and I just got in from the evening walk where he picked the house with no one home, but the neighbor across the road was in the driveway. I hate having to get plastic bags at the supermarket, but I hate more to buy them. He apparently needs an audience, a dog thing.

He may learn but I doubt it. Maria said he wasn't much of a wonder dog, but I wonder if he'll ever get a brain. It was garbage day today so he was especially interested in anything that was left. Paper is particularly fresh this time of year.

The clouds are coming in, which was both forecast and expected, we had much more sun that anticipated. A little patch of Crocus below a mailbox indicated spring is indeed very close. Fortunately a certain Wonderdog didn't mark them. Said dog can be steered.

I have been working on both SketchUp and DoubleCAD. There is a lot of learning for both, but I want to have a good concept before the course. This might blow up in my face, and I may be relearning everything. The price you pay, I am getting good at relearning things.

It has turned into another tired day. I managed to spray a good part of a bottle of fuel injector cleaner on myself, then it took three store to find something I have been looking. Silly items which cost a dollar or two are sometimes the hardest to find. Hopefully tomorrow will be better. I may go down to Farmer Erin's farm and spread mulch around the greenhouse. It sounds like fun.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

More Sunshine

In Rochester, home of 61 sunny days a year, that's somewhere around 17% sunny and 83% gray, more that one sunny day is something to celebrate, more than that you might find us dancing in the streets. Bear in mind this still much better than some places, my home area around Utica, NY is has less. I don't really suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, though a lot of people do including Maria to a small degree. I just like the sun and the warmth.

My dad was a contractor and put his four sons to work early. After finishing college I joined him, working up through the ranks. I think I started as a wheelbarrow operator, graduated to shingler and then a framer. Somewhere along the line I also started estimating and finally ran the company under his very critical eye. The company ended up closing because the world couldn't take 2 stubborn Ed Hinges working together. I think there would have been cataclysmic repercussions if my son Ned would have had the opportunity join us. He may be the most stubborn.

But I spent a lot of time working outside. I think the best part about working in sunny weather is that you aren't cold, wet and miserable. Just a minor perk. I had an office in the center core of building at my last job, now windows to the outside. I won't say it contributed to the stroke, there were plenty of other job related factors that did, but it is pretty unnatural.

Should my stamina come back I may consider carpentry again. In the meantime, my deposit check went out to Will Beemer at the Heartwood School for the SketchUp course. BMike outlined out all the pluses and minuses in an email and it pretty confirmed what I thought. Google will have to make some changes or spin it off, but it has a lot of potential. He also directed me to a free program which is similar to AutoCad LT. My version was quickly approaching not being able to work with operating systems. This gives me the potential for another avenue for employment, drafting glass shop drawings. Unlike my former employer, most companies do not have drafting capabilities and send it out to subcontractors. A friend has one company but works in another market. We shall see.

The course is geared toward timber frame but should cover more and will also be a great chance to catch up with BMike. His father in law is another stroke survivor and I look forward to meeting him and hearing his experiences. It affects all of us differently and uniquely.

Now I have a CAD program to try...wish me luck. One other thing, a picture of my Dad's business card from the late 60's, I found it in his desk when I came to check on my Mom after the hub bub of the funeral was over. Pretty cool, Miss ya Pop!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Sunny Monday

Spring is in the air and the snow is going quick. Ziggy the Wonderdog and I started with a good walk around the circle and I'm looking forward to a long one a little later. I am still resisting the urge to go over and get the bike out of storage, only because I don't know if there is room in the garage. And I am terrified that I may not be able to ride it.

Last summer I had some balance issues. Nothing awful, no falling down, just knowing something wasn't right. It was probably worst when I walked out on the Jetty in Provincetown, where I fish for stripers and blue fins when we visit the Cape. I can usually run right out on the rocks but it was pretty scary in October. I was worried about wading while fly fishing and by starting with some pretty shallow water I found I can do okay with that.

I got on the bike a few times in the fall and pedalled around our little circle, feeling pretty unsure. I don't know if was from not being on it all year or because of the stroke. I guess I just have to go do it.

My dad and his best friend both had strokes later in life. I am fortunate to be close to my dad's best friend's son, we worked together in different areas of construction and both of us followed and follow the Grateful Dead and its members. We always kidded about putting our two fathers together. If they were one the right side of each other you could stand in front and make faces and neither would see. I was lucky and got to keep my sight.

It amazes me though, each hurtle where you think you have won something back, you discover another little place it hit you.

But it's a sunny almost spring day, uncommonly warm for Rochester, NY where we have 61 sunny days a year so I am getting a dog and heading out to walk in it. Enjoy your day.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bad Speech Day

A lot of people have bad hair days, myself being one, but I also have bad speech days. Today was one. While the stroke did not do much to hurt my good looks, being told how good I look all the time, it has affected my speech. Again, I am told I sound great.

In my previous life I spent much of my day on the phone talking to suppliers, customers, architects and co-workers. Then there were the meetings which I had to be at and participate in. I wish I could do that now. Shortly after the stroke it seemed like my mouth was hindering my speech, my face had a noticeable droop and my tongue felt heavy.

Closing in on 8 months I realize its not a problem with my mouth or tongue, I did all my speech therapy exercises. The problem is processing the words coming from my brain to the mouth. The ideas are there, the ability to speak them is there but they don't quite get there. Because both ends work I can speak for a minute, then it becomes labored and then it doesn't quite work. It is an exhausting process and wipes me right out. Driving is only other thing that exhausts me quite as much. It's regaining the paths that were lost.

The bad part about today's bad speech day is that I missed Farmer Erin's CSA Potluck dinner. One blog I follow is "The Irresistible Fleet of Bicycles, the Greenhorn's Blog" If you have any interest in farming and where your food comes from its a good one. One of the links was Farmer Erin's blog and she turned out to be right down the road. I hope to be helping her and maybe get some good veggies. The rabbits seem to decimate mine, no matter how hard I try.

I feel bad and am pissed I missed Erin's dinner, but I got sick of fighting these a while ago when I realized that a bad speech day usually led to at least one day totally exhausted. In an email from BMike, he mentioned his Father in Law had a stroke three years ago and was getting up to 95% now. I hope to get that far, hopefully sooner. And Erin I will come down to plant soon.

I also read a variety of biking blogs and have had a lot of fun this week watching the BikesnobNYC vs. AntbikeMike. I will get some of these links up soon but both will come right up with a little searching. As of now AntbikeMike is thankful for all the readers BikeSnob has thrown his way. By the way ANT (Alternative Needs Transportation) makes some incredible frames and bikes. Check them out at: I have a real nice Trek bike and wont say anything bad about it or then, but I wish I had known about ANT, they are the shizzle.

Erin, I am sorry but it just becomes too much. Hopefully it will get better, I am told I have made great strides already.

"My Stroke of Insight"

Sometime later in the summer, Maria and I were in Barnes and Noble in Pittsford when this book caught my eye. Jill Bolte Taylor wrote this wonderful book about her experience with a stroke and her recovery. Jill is/was a brain researcher who had a massive bleed on her left hemispere. She had the stroke in 1996 at 37 years and the book chroniciles both her experience remembering the stroke and her recovery.

My Stroke of Insight was the first time I found something readable on strokes. There does not seem to be a lot out there. I did a search on Amazon this morning and came up with more about the band The Strokes, another band. Stroke 9, Strokes for Dummies, which I really want to read being the idiot who just had one. Jill Taylor's book was near the beginning of the list fortunately. I pretty new to this blogging and have much to learn, but here is a link to her TED talk:
Her website is:
If you are stroke survivor or know someone who has had a stroke, I would highly recommend this. It certainly provided me with insight and hope.

And here are The Strokes singing "Last Night":
Someday I will learn to embed these things.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

SketchUp Class

My friend BMike invited me to a SketchUp course he is teaching at the Heartwood School in the Berkshires. I am seriously considering it for several reasons. In the past I have worked as a draftsman or drafting was a part of my duty. I learned with a T-square and triangle in high school, graduated to a drafting machine, but never got to AutoCad. I have played with it, looked at drawings on it, tried to learn it but never got it.

Another job taught me ArchiCAD and I loved it. It is a great program for designing and building modeling, but is pretty expensive. Five updates later and a number of years later and I don't remember all the commands. It seems I would burn through the pay per hour use protection key pretty quick.

But here is SketchUp. It looks great, the price is right (free), it models in 3D and it seems to be catching on. An architect friend uses it sometimes and the work I have seen done in it looks good.

Then there is my situation. My last job I spent 50% or more of my day on the phone or in meetings and suddenly I have a hard time talking. Right after the "You look great!" comments come the "I think you sound good!" comments and my response is you don't know the effort, tomorrow I won't be able to say a word and I'll have a major headache. I won't let on how much this hurts. It sucks but no one knows what to say, I look normal and can sound normal for a few minutes.

So somewhere along the line or as soon as possible I want and need to go back to work, but really can't do what I did. Drawing is a possibility and maybe a good one. Drawing is something I enjoy and would not have to talk at it. I have emailed BMike a bunch of questions about what he sees happening with the program and await his answers. It sounds like a good possibility.

Finally, I need to introduce Ziggy the Wonder Dog. This guy gets me out walking a couple times a day. We try to go a mile or two each evening. While he looks like a Boykin Spaniel, he is a mere Cockapoo, which would have been called a mutt when I was a kid. He's a little small for a Boykin so I am proposing the Miniature Boykin breed for the AKC. Forgive me AKC members. Now if he would stop pulling and going right in front of people's mail boxes.


On June 20, 2009, I had a stroke. It was Father's Day, I picked up my son at SUNY Oswego and we drove on to Barneveld to visit my Dad and have a chicken barbecue. Somewhere along the line I notice my speech becoming more labored. I wondered if I was having an allergic reaction to the pistachio muffin I ate that morning. I felt unusually tired but didn't think a lot about it. Sometime on the ride home, my daughter called and I had a hard time speaking but still didn't think much about it.

When I did get home, my wife Maria was concerned both about my speech and that I was so tired, but I blew it off that I may have been allergic to the morning muffin. I had a couple of beers, took a brisk walk and went to bed.

The next morning, June 21, I tried getting up for work and could barely move. I still had the labored speech and my right side was heavy and hard to move. I showed and got dressed and sat on the bed and then I told Maria I needed to go to the doctor, something unheard of. I now figured I probably had Bell's Palsey. On the initial trip to the Doctor I had never been to, but had listed for 10 years, I was too early. A trip back had me seeing a PA who was alarmed at my blood pressure, said I could have Bell's Palsey but I should go to the hospital as a precaution.

Off we went to Rochester General Hospital, where they had me admitted in minutes. I was going in for an exam as Maria came in from parking the car. The triage nurse, who Maria referred to as Nurse Ratchet took a look at me and asked me to raise my eyebrows. When I did she laughed and announced I had had a stroke. With in a half hour I was hooked to an IV, CAT scanned and soon had an entourage of interns looking after me.

I was in the hospital most of that week. I would recount it but much of it is a blur. I was scanned, probed, imaged and tested, much looking for a cause and trying to figure out if another was coming. Most of my strength came back, but my speech was slower. My tongue grew to tired too fast. The right side of my face drooped fairly noticeable. On a positive note, the wrinkles on my face were soften.

Its' about 8 months later and I still am recovering. Strokes are funny things, not really a physical injury but a brain injury. Pathways the brain uses are cut off and you have to learn new ones. It goes slower at 50 years, the brain doesn't learn as quickly.

I spent the first couple of months thinking that if I healed physically everything would be fine. Now I now I have more healing and relearning. Strokes seem misunderstood. I have been told countless times that I look great. Well, damn it, the stroke didn't affect my looks and I search for a snappy come back. Having a somewhat slow tongue it rarely comes. My healing is coming slowly but surely. My face doesn't droop noticeably, I can speak much better but it exhausts me.

This is the story of what is next. I don't want it to be the whiny stroke guy blog. I do want there to be a better understanding of strokes both to prevent them, to treat them and to live with them.