You’re a Lot Stronger Than You Might Think You Are

 

Though it might seem clique. We really are a lot stronger than we’d ever take or give ourselves credit for. I recently had a chance to catch up which both my Father and Brother. During each conversation I was asked how I was feeling and how I was handling the progressing effects of what was diagnosed as Fahrs, but is now being linked to the radiation treatment I received as a child. Gory details aside.

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Both my Dad and my Brother expressed how inspired by my strength and perseverance. Here I am, struggling to walk and maintain any sense of balance and these two are telling me I’m their hero. As a kid, I was a boxing enthusiast. I played all types of sports with varied degrees of skill and success, but what I wanted most was to be a prize fighter. To me, that was tough. However, as I grew up, I came to learn and strongly believe that true strength and toughness came from the inside. The ability to overcome, survive and get past any darkness

that may have descended upon you. Still, with all those beliefs and concrete knowledge of universal truths, it’s something I’ve never allowed myself to apply to my own situation. And while I’ve always been able to feel empathy and sincere concern for those who struggle in any way. I still struggle to apply those same feelings to my own struggles. So, to all my friends, family, loved ones and anyone out there who is fighting any battle, Keep fighting, you’re a lot stronger than you might think you are.

Something Different

I love goats. Goat milk, goat farms, goat petting, goat yoga, goat sanctuaries, goat rescues. I just can’t help but feel happy when I’m in the presence of goats. When I lived in Jersey City, there was a landmark cemetery that employed goats to maintain the landscape there. I used to visit to feed the goats on a fairly regular basis. It was a stress reliever that had a very calming effect. So, when my wife insisted on going out for gelato instead of ice cream, I have to admit to being a bit irritated. That is, until I saw a sign that not only made me smile, but helped open my mind to something different. Goats or not, that was some damn good gelato. And while I don’t see myself giving up on my ice cream scoop or embarking on more ice cream driven road trips. I’ll definitely keep an open mind when asked about returning to Seattle’s Fainting Goat.

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The Last Weekend

Since making my appointment with Rochester, Minnesota’s  Mayo Clinic close to a month ago, I’ve caught myself referring to the weekend of 07/27 – 07/28 as “my last weekend.” Though not intended to be morbid or prophetic of any kind, I somehow equate this long awaited trip to be somewhat of an ending or beginning of some sorts. These next few days will mark what I see as the final chapter of my search for answers. After several years of my troubling symptoms being written off by my asshole doctor as post brain tumor, post stroke symptoms. I finally sought treatment outside his umbrella of  short sighted ignorance which eventually rewarded me with the knowledge that I had another brain tumor and later finding out that I had a rare, virtually unknown neurological disorder known as Fahrs. One that had no cure or known treatment.

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While I do expect this coming week in Rochester to be helpful. My expectations regarding any breakthrough information are almost non existent. Instead, I’m hoping for a sense of closure, as in ways to adjust my lifestyle while moving forward. instead of looking back in anger, asking why. I hope to live in the present, moving and thinking forward. Adjusting to and facing any challenges this disorder might throw my way and tackle the head on. In the end, what’s life without living?

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Greasy Spoons, Muddy Cups and Crate Digging

I love Tacoma and while a long commute will probably doom any plans to settle there, I look forward to our many weekend trips there. With two years living in the great northwest tucked in our back pocket and more trips to Tacoma to count. It’s easy to appreciate the area’s laid back vibe and somewhat close proximity to our home. The problem, if you can call it one, with visiting any particular area is that you often find yourself visiting the same spots and doing the same things. And while repetition can often bring one temporary comfort, it can also produce torturous results. (Ever see the movie Groundhog Day? And while we did manage to include a couple of regular stops including High Voltage Records and Bluebeard Coffee, it was our breakfast at Marcia’s Silver Spoon Cafe and its industrial surroundings that really had us foaming at the mouth.

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It goes without saying, that, as much as visiting those old comfortable might have it’s perks, the practice itself gets old rather quickly. So, instead of visiting the same places over and over again, try turning your chosen navigation app. off and let you natural sense of curiosity take over. Getting lost is often the best wsy to find yourself an adventure to remember. It can also net you a few more favorite places to go to.

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The Next Step.

With another birthday and wedding anniversary in my rear view window and a  trip to Rochester Minnesota ‘s Mayo Clinic just days away, I’ve still had plenty of time to reflect on life in general. The things and people that bring me the most joy. How my love for exploring and seeking out adventure and beauty in places that others might not tred. Despite age and an ever changing bag of bones. I still want to hop fences and climb trees. I still see “Do Not Enter” and “No Trespassing” signs as open invitations and warm welcomes to step inside and take a look. As the days grow closer to my trip and what I consider my final search for answers regarding my condition, I find that I’ve become calmer and more accepting of what’s been a progressive downhill when it comes to my symptoms. There are still many fences to hop and trees to climb . Though I might have to find new ways to do so, I’m more than up for the challenge.

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The Weight

Whenever leaving home with my wife. she always conducts a thorough search of what travels through the front door. “Keys? Check. Wallet? Check. Cell Phone? Check.” Anything beyond that, though, gets serious scrutiny. With my computer, hard drive and oversized headphones already packed and prepared for our end of the day stop for coffee and several hours of power writing and internet obsessive searching, the mere mention or sight of my camera bag usually brings on a scowl and interrogation as to what the hell do you need that for? (Now, granted, over the years I’ve added extra lenses, flashes and other tricks of the trade to my arsenal. Thus adding noticeable weight and the need for a bigger camera bag.)

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However, despite a growing bag of tricks and a hard drive that’s busting at the seems, I still live and see through a photographers eye. After decades of shooting, I still feel the draw of documenting the places I’ve been and the things I’ve seen. Still, that look I get from my wife coupled with the desire to travel light, I’m learning to enjoy things with documenting them. And while I often regret leaving my camera behind, having my cell phone handy allows me a little creative relief. I snapped these shots just off 6th Ave. in Tacoma while returning to our car. It reminded me of my younger days going to hardcore shows throughout New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

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Body, Mind, Soul and Learning my Limitations.

With each day that passes, the neurological disorder I was diagnosed with reminds me that it is here to stay and make certain aspects of my life quite difficult. Adjusting and learning to approach things differently have been keys to moving forward. As much as the physical aspects of Fahrs progress. I can’t help but feel grateful that my upper body and even more importantly, my mind remain strong. Unfortunately though, the mind and body are not quite in sync. Which, at times can get me into a bit of trouble. Case in point, last weekends road trip. Just a week after getting a new, much needed walker, my wife and I planned a road trip that would figuratively and literally knock me on my ass.

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After an amazing breakfast at Anacortes, Washington’s Dad’s Diner. We hit the road and continued on to Deception Bridge / Pass / Stae Park in Oak Harbor, making a number of stops along the way. Now,the fact that I rarely leave the apartment without a walker hasn’t had any effect on my wanting to hike, climb fences or wade waist deep in a river. Which, for better or worse, can get me in a bit of trouble. Add to it the insistence on carrying a photo bag loaded with lenses and other gear. (Perfect for someone battling with balance and stabilty issues.)

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While there, I faced down my fears of heights and walking across bridges while nearly giving myself and my wife heart attacks. The goal, though entirely my wife, was to completely exhaust myself, which I did. During the long drive home, we stopped at farms and vegetable stands where we rebooted with coffee, ice cream and apples.

By the time we made it to the ferry, I started to feel the days actvities catching up with me. I was tired, dog tired. By the time we reached home,  was flat out exhausted. Still, the long time need to put everyhing away in it’s proper place before even thinking  of rest, overcame me and as I was putting something irrelevant away, I fell back on an old suitcase prop I haven’t used in years. The suitcase broke my fall before sending my head crashing into the wall. There were a lot of four letter ords shouted before being rescued by my wife and breaking out in mutual laughter over how I never accept me limits or learn my lesson about knowing when to leave things be. Until the next time.

Clumsily Yours,

–  The PhotoGeek