NMSS Walk 2021

Well, here is the account of my 2021 MS walk. As in 2020, the walk was “virtual” in that it was not held in a large group setting with volunteers cheering us on, handing out medals and t-shirts and providing snacks. It’s OK. It’s not about the goodies. It’s about the fundraising. For me it’s also about the steady progress I’ve made since learning that exercise doesn’t make MS worse.

This photo was taken at the end of the lengthy (for me) hike. Fortunately I used my sticks. I haven’t used trekking sticks on a walk for quite a while, but I haven’t attempted a 2.8 mile hike since before 2010 and probably since before 2003 when we left our East Falls home for Elkins Park. I’m looking a bit bedraggled here, which, as you will see, is for reasons beyond simply the length of the hike. Here is the route in a screen shot from a walking app I have on my phone, (which survived the trip):

The screenshot is a bleak description of what we actually saw, because the experience, itself, is much more colorful.

Reading “The Overstory” by Richard Powers made me more aware of how old trees give life to the new. It would be interesting to know which of these branches will become full trees in 20 or so years.

But speaking of interesting trees, this tree survived a beaver. At least it has so far.

However, before we got to these particular trees, the walk started out with a lovely vista of the lake that accompanied us the whole time:

It looks like a nice sunny day, doesn’t it?

We found plenty of interesting distractions:

Can you find the toad?

Jack in his pulpit:

These shots were taken during the first third of our hike. However I stopped taking photos for the next third and didn’t have a whole lot of energy to shoot anything in the second two thirds. We’d noticed rumblings in the background and that boats were not being rented when we paid for parking at this county park. The weather app had predicted the chance for light showers, something we shrugged off.

Susan noticed the first drop. It’s OK, we surmised. We can handle a light drizzle. Sadly that was not to be. After one drop came more. The light drizzle turned into a nice solid drenching rain. The cold was not terribly hard on me — I thrive in cooler temperatures because of my MS heat sensitivity. Susan suffered more, though, and both of us were exhausted by trudging through the woods, drenched, and on slippery slopes. Did I say I was glad I used my trekking sticks?

When I got this shot before the rain I thought of telling a physical therapist in 2017 that I wanted to be able to walk on uneven ground. I don’t think this is what she had in mind when she put out the modest obstacle course she had me walk across. I’m quite certain she would not have recommended I do it when the ground turned to mud and the pathway into a waterfall!

If you noticed that we didn’t make great time on this 2.8 mile trek, it will not surprise you given that not only did we cover it in wet conditions the second 2/3rds of the trip, but we also went up and down hills, most of them with exposed roots, like those above, and other obstacles. We were getting tree therapy by virtue of being close to and under trees, but we didn’t spend a lot of time looking up into the high branches.

Rain fell for about 15-20 minutes, about ten minutes was the hard, drenching rain that led to us in this condition:

I was the lucky one who wore the hat. Ironically, we discussed whether I’d wear a different hat, leaving one for Susan, at the beginning of the trip, but she decided we’d not get excessive sun under the trees. Silly to have worried about excessive sun.

Nevertheless, we successfully completed the trip. After the rain, I thought I’d get a few shots of dripping plants. But to get the real dripping plants I’d have had to get on my knees to get the shots and we were not into dawdling, not to mention that I was not into getting any wetter than I was, nor was I interested in kneeling in the mud! This shot turned out.

All in all, it was a memorable hike, one, I think, that was an adequate reflection of the generosity of the contributors to my MS fundraising efforts as well as a reflection of the improvements I’ve made in my mobility as a result of physical therapy, improved energy management and, not least, a replaced left hip in 2016.

Thanks to those of you who contributed to this years Walk for MS. If you still want to contribute, my fund raiser is going to be open for months and you can make a contribution here:

http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR?px=8752419&pg=personal&fr_id=31722&et=pTZvB6l3ehtPWXzqRI7OHQ

Or you can donate directly to the MS Society:

https://www.nationalmssociety.org/Donate

Thanks for visiting my blog!

Mile+ for NMSS with photos

Thanks to all of you who supported the National MS Society on behalf of my fundraising walk.  The weather and my health finally aligned to something that allowed me to walk today after I was washed out by the rain and a cold on the planned day of the walk.  Susan went with me to walk at Morris Arboretum where I also took a few photos.  The only comment I have it that the cloud photo resulted from Susan’s comment “there’s not a cloud in the sky.”  Obviously, I found one.  But it was tiny and of no account.  

For those of you who have not visited Morris Arboretum, it is a lovely place where University of Pennsylvania students work with the professional staff to maintain and improve the estate of a long deceased donor.  The walk is about a mile and a half the way we did it and it is a popular destination.  Today they opened a train display, so there were a whole lot of toddlers and young children out.  There is one photo of a train in here.  

I hope you enjoy the photos half as much as I enjoyed taking them:

 

 

Three steps to Survive the Coming Election

By now most people are aware of the looming election in 2020. CNN, MSNBC, Fox News– all are geared up for non-stop 24 hour seven day a week coverage, reported in tones that make discussing the apocalypse sound insignificant. I plan to survive this with my mental health intact using an easy three step program.

This may sound like a pipe dream.  The divide in this country is as bad as anyone in living memory can recall.  Indignant Democrats comb the news for more confirmation that Trump is corrupt, criminal and contemptible, as if their ire can be more roused, or their certainty more secure.  Diehard Republicans, Trump’s base, sit, riveted, to Fox News, yelling invective at the Democrats while a crazy few collect guns and plan attacks. Pundits on all sides have sharpened their pens and their wit, ready to stock the fires of anger and indignation.

We’re all poised for the most important election of this new, but tarnished, century.  

To follow my three step plan, it helps to adopt the perspective of a gero-psychologist with 25 years of experience.  Things have been worse in this country.  During the sixties, it was the left that armed themselves and contemplated and committed acts of violence.  In the forties and in the twenties world wars threatened to destroy our freedoms in ways we can barely contemplate today.  My first centenarian patient’s mother told her stories about the great Civil War.

But our media — press, radio, TV, internet — is poised to keep our eyes riveted to the political world.  They make a nice living keeping our attention.  Few of these TV pundits make less than six figures annually.  Many make seven figures.  They are paid well as high level Carnival barkers who grab and keep our eyes and ears focused on them.  We respond to the increasing need to NOT MISS OUT on the latest turn of events.

Which leads to the first step: turn off TV news.  They aren’t going to tell you anything that will make even a tiny bit of difference in your life.  If you know it now rather than tomorrow morning or the coming weekend nothing will change.  The need to know NOW is a drug, an addiction, a poison in our society that worsens our divide, interrupts our sleep and undermines civil discourse.  Get your news from newspapers or trusted websites you visit for only minutes at a time, once or twice a day – no more.   Get most of your news looking out of the window, or talking to friends.  I can guarantee that your peace of mind will increase dramatically with this change.

As a corollary to this step, stop posting and following recommended political links on Facebook, Twitter or other social media.  Wait until the professionals examine the news.  We’ve all read how the Russians have manipulated social media to expand the political differences between Americans.  But we don’t need the Russian’s to manipulate us.  We, ourselves, are prone to look for any bit of information to confirm our biases.  Stop.  Wait.  Every viral story is click bait.  Someone is lining their pockets with our need for constant new information.

The second step, unlike the other two, requires a bit more effort.  Remember what you did as a child to occupy your time?  You played with entertaining toys, spent time with friends, learned new things.  It’s a puzzle to figure out how to return to these times as an adult.  Some people move easily to reading books or non-political magazines as a way to fill the time they once spent with social media. Others prefer visual input, or prefer to have things spoken.  Regardless, with a bit of effort, no one needs to sit on their porch whittling or knitting (not that that’s a bad thing).

A recent story reported face-to-face time is now a luxury of the rich.  It focused on children, of course, but it applies to adults as well.  But this is a luxury that requires no money.  You don’t need expensive coaches.  You only need the intent and to follow through with action.  Invite friends to play board games.  Go bowling and laugh together at the number of gutter balls you throw.  Take a walk in a park or in the woods.  Go dancing.  You can even volunteer for someone’s campaign. Make your own news.  You’ll remember it better in your old age and it will make you feel better now.

The last step, and this is not difficult once you focus on it, is to broaden your perspective. We live, according to a recent Gates Foundation report, in the best times in human history.  A higher percentage of the population of the world is able to feed, cloth and educate themselves than ever before.  

You’d be hard pressed to find this information in the disaster mongering feeding frenzy that is the news media.  But it’s true.  The liberal and conservative demons that currently threaten are paltry reflections of their old selves.  Civil liberties were more restricted as recently as the fifties when McCarthy devastated people by making accusations of Communist sympathy.  Television was censored, then, and the media routinely killed stories to please government.  Gun ownership restrictions were tighter even more recently than that.  Studies show that, while abortions were not available legally in earlier centuries, infanticide was rampant — not to mention the fact that modern medicine has greatly increased the odds for children to reach their sixth year.

Other controversies that get the barkers screaming are similarly diminished.  But even if they weren’t, there is no reason for us to let them sell us a pathway to sleeplessness, anxiety and depression.

Take control of your life again with the three simple steps I’ve outlined.  You many even come up with more steps, or better steps as you contemplate your freedom from manipulation.  The next election is unlikely to destroy you.  If it does, worrying about it won’t make a difference.  The news mongers are only in your ear if you tune them in.  Don’t let them ruin your peace of mind.  

Trip to the West

We had great fun on our recent trip to New Mexico and Colorado. in no particular order:

Do you see the elk? He’s looking at you!

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We took a walk to see the troll.  This is, apparently, what troll country looks like.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

What a friendly troll.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Oh no!  He will not let me go!  Fortunately Susan pulled me free and we returned to spend the rest of the vacation in Colorado with Susan’s brother Jim and Sister-in-law Irene.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maria Martinez Historic Ranch.  A maintained turn of the last century ranch with explanations of life at the time, including its weaving tradition and the inclusion of Native American Slaves as part of the production staff!  Who knew?  

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Weavings.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There was more wildlife!  This eagle is in Colorado

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The elk we saw on the way to Chaco Canyon.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Strange features in the rock on the way to Chaco Canyon.  Is it human made?  Or the winds?

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside a grand kiva at Chaco Canyon.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some walls at the Chaco Canyon ruins still stand, including ancient wood.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Garden of the God’s on the way to Albuquerque from Denver.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sandia Mountains from a very high peak after a ride in a tram.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sunset over Albuquerque from the top of the Sandia Mountains.  

 

These are not all of the photos I took on this vacation, but a small selection of the best shots I think I have.  I’d like another trip like it again sometime, maybe soon. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Walk By the Cuyahuga River

At the end of our trip the memory of our walk in the woods lingered and the trails of the Cuyahuga Valley National Park beckoned from only a little ways south of Cleveland.  We’d see as much art as we liked, and enjoyed both the Botanical Gardens and the Cleveland Orchestra.  A stop for a walk in wilder environs appealed to both of us.  Of course, this was the park forced on a reluctant park service by a powerful Ohio delegation — not as wild as the great national parks that founded our national park system.  But, despite the major highway dissecting it, and the relatively developed nature of it’s landscape (i.e. paved walkways and a canal), we still enjoyed a walk.  Given the flatness of the pathway and the frequent stops for photos, the two miles I walked on this one about equaled the 1.3 miles of uneven footing I encountered in our earlier walk.  And in the end, we got to drive up to see waterfalls.  

A Walk In The Woods

My last goal in physical therapy was to walk on uneven ground.  I still smile at the mock up of uneven ground — ankle weights, cushions, other barriers, cast on the floor in an almost random pattern, only to be covered efficiently by two yoga mats for me to walk across, never knowing what I’d be stepping on.  I intended to get out in the wild again.  I think this counts.  As you can see from the screen shots, this walk took us a total of 1.3 miles and climbed more than a few flights of stairs over seriously uneven ground.  You can only imagine my happiness.  

A Celebratory Gathering

My Aunt and Uncle Catherine and Dan had a weekend together with all their children and grandchildren to celebrate sixty years of marriage.  We joined them for a few wonderful hours.  Now I have good memories and a handful of photos.  I’ll not label them.  If I sent you the link, you know them.  

Happy Holidays from Lamar and Susan

                                   Happy Holidays from Lamar and Susan

 

In a year when everyone gives their sincerest heartfelt best wishes on Facebook or Twitter, I remember starting to send a typewritten, xeroxed Christmas letter and the consequential guilt we experienced for avoiding handwritten notes. Now it seems quaint. That’s what happens when you’re older than more than three quarters of the population. So happy solstice holiday, whatever yours might be. We’ll be singing in the longer days with Christmas songs of praise and anticipation.

This year we were gratefully on the cutting edge – of a knife. Susan had a bunion corrected and I scored a new hip. Susan went back to work within two weeks. I still take my physical therapist’s plan to a gym three times a week and it’s working. If it weren’t for the way certain people shake their head in sadness whenever I suggest it, I’d be preparing to see patients again. But with only 3-4 good hours in a day, and the unpredictability of my fatigue, the world is a better place with me as a household manager and entertainment director. We both like having home cooked meals we can share most nights, there to commiserate about Susan’s ongoing fight with the new electronic medical record, or my struggle to finish and polish my book, not to mention recent bitter disappointments. We were here for 9/11 and here for 11/9.

Our trips this year stayed on the mainland and we stayed on the ground. We tagged a few more museums – some regional, some international. A trip to Montreal via the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes packed in fascinating sites and experiences, including a rendition of Britton’s War Requiem at the Montreal Symphony. Our local trips to the Philadelphia Orchestra continue to be exciting, except for the traffic jams.

Even more exciting is what we create ourselves. Susan loves our yard and spends as much time as she can in it. She even loves raking leaves, chopping them up in our electric shredder and putting them on the beds. Flowers sometimes seem to plant themselves! When it gets dark she ends up knitting prayer shawls for church while watching TV, or simply sitting with a cat or two in her lap.

Besides rehab, I’m going to choir once a week and getting voice coaching. Hence my thrills: I used my trekking sticks to get all the way around Morris Arboretum a month ago and, for our Christmas concert, I chucked the stool I’d used for the last two years and stood for both pieces we sang. Later, when I need to put my feet up, I pull out a book – either my own, or one to read. The thrill of electronic media has gone.

We hope you all have a blessed and satisfying holiday season wrapped in gratitude and filled with those things that are most precious to you.

Love,

Lamar and Susan

The Distorted Electoral Map

There have been accusations of cheating and unfair advantage by both sides in this election and in elections past.  I am not about to address an immediate distortion, but one that has festered in our political landscape ever since the Constitution came into effect.  States with low populations have extra clout.  We need to fix things so clout is divided fairly.

It is a simple mathematical reality.  Every state gets Electoral College votes equal to the number of Senators and Congressmen from their state.  California gets fifty-five electoral votes.  Fifty three come from their Representatives, evenly divided based on population, plus two for the Senators who are assigned to every State.  North Dakota, on the other hand, gets three electoral votes.  One because it has a single Representative to reflect its tiny population of six hundred and eighty-four thousand, smaller than the 18 largest individual cities in the U.S., and two for its Senators.

So the people of North Dakota get three electoral votes when they have just enough of a population to qualify for one representative in the House of Representatives.  That is disproportionate representation.  Why should they have those two extra electors to the electoral college?  Not right. Voters in large states like California and New York and Pennsylvania and Ohio are getting screwed.

It is not only in the electoral college.  It is also in the Senate. California, with fifty-three representatives, has only two senators.  That’s the exact same number as North and South Dakota.  And Wyoming.  Interestingly, Washington DC also gets three electors, even though it only has a population of 600,000+.  I’m not quite sure how they pulled that math off.  I’ll have to ask my friends from the Capital. But at least they get equal treatment in presidential elections, despite the fact that they have no senators and no congressmen.

So, while our nations capital has no representation, States large in territory and tiny in population get distorted amounts of power in the Senate.  And all tiny groups get distorted amounts of power in the Electoral College.

It’s wrong.  Just as wrong as if we switched over to a straight popular vote, which would freeze out all of the voters in the middle of the country and would emphasize only large population areas where campaigns would dedicate all of their time to gain the largest number of voters.

I don’t think we should adjust the number of Senators from each State to reflect the population.  Of course not.  That would be unfair.  And unconstitutional.

Instead we should adjust states to reflect the number of people they have in them.  Split California into smaller states.  Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Florida, too.  Combine North and South Dakota with Iowa and Minnesota.

Sure, this could just be another shot at gerrymandering.  Someone smart and bi-partisan would have to be in charge, not a body reflecting a dominant party at a given time.  It’s not a panacea.  There will always be distortions.  But I can bet you dollars to donuts that the people of Austin would love to have their own state to wrap around their politics, just like the South-eastern Pennsylvania would be happy to have the Alabama section of the State go its own separate way.  Southern California would throw gnarly parties if they could untie the note with Northern California.  Pittsburgh could combine with one of Ohio’s cities, or take West Virginia with it.  Perhaps that could provide a little more clout to the impoverished West Virginians who need a little more clout these days.

Now, if I could turn my attention to the equal assignment of billionaires to each State, we might get things ironed out.  West Virginia could use a little help in that area, too, I think.  Give them an Apple, maybe.  Or a Koch.