Ouch!

It’s amazing what you can forget, spin and avoid altogether.

Post my great brain buzz of 2010 I did plenty of each. It’s all about self-defense.

I purposely – and sometimes subconsciously – forgot many things. When I was told I may not read again, relearn functional math or hold a steady job, I’d choose to forget and ignore. My faulty memory helped a lot with this in the earliest days.

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Anna, me, Patricia & Kristina

When I’d be told that it could be a year or longer before I could think about getting back to work I’d spin the message as acknowledgment that I would get back to work.

“No, Tim, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get back to work,” the experts would clarify. “But if you do, it could take…”

“Na, na, na, na,” I’d retort back with my fingers plugging my ears. “I can’t hear you.”

Maybe it was my history as a reporter and a spin doctor, but if there was one thing that stayed strong during my early weeks and months of stroke recovery it was my ability to spin the truth and selectively forget.

As years past, I used my selective memory to focus on not forgetting what me and my family had been through. It motivated me to stay in shape, to arm myself against another sizzle. It motivated me to spread the stroke awareness gospel, talking to individuals and groups – anybody who’d listen — about ways of living to avoid a stroke, recognizing the signs if it does strike and motivating victims to make their best recovery.

This has always been a healthy thing for me. Sometimes it’s emotionally draining to think and talk about the brain buzz experience. But it feeds more than it bleeds. And it helps motivate me to deal with the remaining scars I’m left with.

But there are some bits of what the stroke did that I chose not to remember and – in some cases – made a very conscious decision not to know.

One of those things is exactly what my kids were going through in real time in the moments they watched their blubbering, confused dad being carted out of their home by paramedics. And the hours and days that followed before I next saw them.

Then, following last weeks’ Brain Food, Kristina, my oldest, penned a new entry in her blog, West Meets East.

In response to my entry she shared my brain buzz through the eyes of her and her kid sister, Anna. They were 13 and 16 at the time.

Here’s a bit from Kristina’s blog:

Eight years ago today, I was waiting for my dad to die. Hoping, praying, and pleading that he wouldn’t, but waiting for that phone call all the same. 

It was early in the morning, and 16 year old me was getting ready for school. Something felt ‘off’; not immediately, but the feeling was gaining traction steadily. I went into my parent’s bedroom to say good morning, and my dad was sitting on the edge of the bed. His head was in his hands, and he was clearly agitated. Asking him what was wrong, he made some brusque reply, clearly not wanting me to worry, but also clearly worried about his well-being. He stood up, momentarily paced, and literally ran downstairs to shower. Looking back, I know he was trying to attach himself to some feeling of normalcy to distract himself from the multitude of sensations he was experiencing. 

I looked at my mom: “he’s having a stroke.”

I had recently completed my lifeguard training. There are two situations taught in lifeguard training where, unless you’re a doctor with a plethora of medical resources at your disposal, you’re truly fucked (besides calling 911 and treating for shock). Those two situations are heart attacks and strokes. 

I ran after my dad and tried to convince him to sit down so I could treat him for shock before the ambulance arrived. He refused. I remember sitting on a chair in the living room, looking at my mom and saying, “he won’t let me help him.” We looked at each other for a brief moment, but that moment expressed every fear we had. I can’t quite summarize that instant. My mom ran after my dad. 

Madness. That’s how my dad describes how he felt from the moment he woke up that morning. We wouldn’t have the conversation about how he felt that morning for months because he lost most of his ability to speak. After what seemed an eternity, the ambulance arrived, and my little sister and I were left to our own devices.

 My sister was 13, and being the protective person I am, I tried to maintain my composure for her sake. What do you do after you see your parents at one of the most vulnerable moments of their lives? Anna and I just looked at each other, and commenced our longest Sims marathon to date (12 hours straight, if you’re curious). When I look back on this day, I think of three things: helplessness, endless hours of waiting, and playing The Sims.

Eventually, Anna and I learned that Dad was still alive, but even learning this offered little comfort. How would Dad be able to recover from a stroke, if at all? At the time he was in his early 40s. Would his age help him? Mom was a stay-at-home mom…how would Dad be able to continue working? There were so many questions, so little information, and no answers. 

You can find the entire thing – and other great stuff – here: https://httpwestmeetseast.wordpress.com/2018/03/15/happy-strokeversary-dad/

Ouch. Wow. I did that to them? That doesn’t feel real good.

Pre Kristina Tim never really saw himself as a dad. But when Kristina and Anna came around, I took to the ‘protect at any cost’ thing pretty naturally. Then I stroked out and put them through that? Sheesh.

I’m going to have to mull on this a bit. (Is that how you spell ‘mull’ as in, to ponder? Damn stroke played tricks on my already so-so spelling skills:-))

Anyway, until next time…

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Happy strokeversary, baby

Today is my Strokeversary.

It was March 15 in 2010 that my brain misfired and forced me to redefine who I am. And who I am not. So today seemed as good a day as any other to fire this blog thing up again.

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March 15 was a Monday in 2010, so the stroke struck on the first working day after the clocks rolled forward to daylight savings time. Now it always makes me laugh at how hard a time people have with the switch each year, all of the troubles an hour of missed sleep causes from more fender benders to increases in work place injuries to a general cocktail of bumpiness and lack of energy.

I think I have a lot of people beat on this front. But that’s not what this is about.

I’m back to blogging after seeing a picture of me and my old friend and work mate Jonathon Jenkins. It was taken back in 2009 at a memorial celebrating the life of David Quigley.

Quig made both our stories better when he was running the news desk at the Edmonton Sun where JJ and I each plied our trade as reporters in the mid 1990s. Quig left this earth too soon. About a year later I stroked out. And in 2014 JJ was taken away. Cancer.

This isn’t meant to be depressing.

What really upsets me is that I let both of those guys drift out of my life.

I didn’t even know that JJ had passed until a year or two after the fact. Another friend of mine had known him and when he realized JJ and I had worked together he brought up his passing, surprised to learn that I was clueless to it.

There was a time when JJ and I were fast friends. Aside from working together, I was the worst member of a band that had JJ as both drummer and heart and soul. After I left the news biz, I travelled to Toronto – where JJ moved to in 2000 – every couple of months.

And yet the only time I saw him after he left Edmonton was at Quig’s wake.

What am I on about? A couple of things.

First, that ‘ole clock never stops ticking but the sound of it slips to the back of your mind until you blink and your kids are grown up, you’re working with people born when you were in college and some of your friends have passed away without having a chance to say goodbye. You realize you’ve missed important chunks of the lives of people important to you.

Second, it’s a cliché, but there’s no making up for lost time. It’s gone. Kaput.

Finally, I’ve been thinking lately about how in my quest to get the most out of my post stoke brain, I’ve been giving short shrift to the soul. The two go hand in glove. Ignoring the soul leaves the brain alone to work as just a machine. So from now on this blog will be about heart and soul – heart of the brain, soul of the spirit.

Hopefully that’s not too heady.

You know, while that pic of me and JJ at Quig’s memorial led me down a remorseful path, I love how photo can kick start so many memories. This is why I’m digging Instagram.

I fire it up and find a pic of me and my girls at an event and for every aspect of it fires to life in my head. Another shot of me and some buddies from a trip a few years back and it’s like it just happened. Powerful stuff.

When I’m frustrated with my reading disability, I pull out images of the old flash cards my therapist used on my right after the stroke. Stuff with the ABCs meant for kids just learning to read. This reminds me how far I’ve come much more that words can.

Anyway, until next time…

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The hamster wheel

I’m supposed to be smarter than a rodent. Even considering my brain buzz.

But if that’s true, why do I spend so much time on the hampster wheel? Why don’t I spend more time — most of my time — on things that make me scream Awesome! Yes!?

 

 

 

 

I don’t know.

You’d think that after some of the crap I’ve been through I’d be like one of these guys you see in the movies. You know, life changing experince leads to a new lease on life. No more wasted time, not a minute spent on stuff that doesnt REALLY MATTER. 24-7 on what’s awsome and makes a fella scream ‘yes!’

But then life kicks in. Routine. Responsibility. A few days pass without tapping out a blog or working on the book.  Days turn to weeks, Weeks turn to months. Ground hog day. Time is spent doing necessary things, but more time is wasted doing unnecessary  stuff. The stuff that keeps a guy busy doing everything but the things he’s supposed to do.

Time passes, frustration turns to passive acceptance that the writing isn’t practical. Energy turns into frustration before it fades to the most evil thing of all — benign content.

Feels a little cliched as I write this. But I’m living this cliche, I guess that’s how cliches become cliches. So I’ll go on,

I took in a seminar the other day where some cliches hit me like a mike Tyson body shot.

They talked about things like, if a fella doesn’t spend regulars time  working on one’s self, a fella can’t get off his hamster wheel. He can’t really take the time to develop his own special, true gifts to their fullest potential.

And that’s a disservice to him. But it’s also cheating one’s community.

That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful without developing your passion, your real gifts. I think you can be really successful doing the wrong things.

You can make money or praise without doing the things that you’re meant to do. And I think that gnaws at your gut.

Jimmy Hendrix might have had great skills as a carpenter — but I’m sure glad he focused on playing the guitar. The world’s a better place and will be as long as his recordings electrify the planet.

My session also talked about spending time every day on visioning the day and reflecting on it’s successes and misses. Giving deep thought to learning and adapting from what’s gone on with an aim to getting better the next time out.

It also makes me think of world class athletes. They visualize making even the smallest corrections to get just a step faster, a bit stronger, doing the small things that add up to being number one. In team sports, focussing on making themselves better makes the steam that much closer to being great.

It always feels to me like it’s selfish to spend time focussing on myself. But it’s not if that focus makes me better at servicing those I was put on this planet to serve.

The session also talked about thinking about gratitude. It turns out that gratitude isn’t just nice, I’m told that science shows that it actually can make you more successful. If you’re grateful for what you have each day — truely grateful and you reflect on this — you are more successful. The trick is, you can’t fake this stuff. You really have to be grateful. I was pretty sure that gratitude was a good thing. I just didn’t know that it was it was also a powerful thing.

Things that make you go ‘hmmm.’

So, i’m going to take a real shot at being really grateful for what i’ve been given and what even the shitty things have provided me. I tend to think of gratitude at dramatic times, intense times. I want to think about it all the time now.

And I’m going to dedicate time to  every day to self reflection. I’ve been doing this for a little while now. Nothing fancy. Just real reflection, opening my noggin to what’s out there. Thinking through what I’ve done each day, thinking about what I should be doing, what I could do.

I’m hopeful this will clear my mind to write what I need to write. If it doesn’t, I’ll be satisfied with whatever clarity shows me.

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Buzzing brain pain

I’ve started another push on my brain book.

Tentatively titled Where Are My Shoes or Stroke Boy, it’s been a labor of love and hate. Love because I need to get this story out. Both to, well, get the story out and to prove I’ve got my writing chops. I’d love to do that.

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Hate because it can be so damn painful.

The pain is emotional — every time I revisit strokey moments I stir up  baggage and pain. But it also hurts physically. My brain works really frik’n hard writing past the damage in my melon.

There’s just so much more effort involved in the process now.  The cheats I use to get around my stroke-caused reading disability simply requires more effort with each tap of the keyboard. I turtle read sentences I just wrote, I employ my reading device to replay passages and to do full edits. I can’t just skip back a sentence or two without having to finagle my reading device. When I try to free bird it pains my brain and slows me to a near standstill. My noodle just has to work so much harder to do everything that it drains the brain.

It sucks. But it’s better than not being able to read and write, so…

I don’t mean to bitch, but there’s so much that slows me down and befuddles my noggin. Virtually everything takes additional effort. A little here, a little there and by the end of the day my brain is bushed.

I have a device to read emails for me, but on my mobile phone I need to turtle read texts and emails. Slow and painful by the end of the day. Ahead of Mothers Day, checking out cards for my bride took 45 minutes and frustrated my fellow shoppers who seemed to wonder why I gazed at each card for so long.

Bank machine visits, some new road construction sines and trying to make my way through some hand written notes all play head games on my over worked noggin.

There’s nothing I can do about this. There doesn’t seem to be a way to get my old speedy reading skills back and the attach on my brain could have been so much worse.

But still…

The trick is I need my brain and me to stay friends. I need to push it enough to do my job, do my writing and all of the other stuff it’s so handy for. But I can’t burn it out in doing so. At all costs, I can’t send it over the edge again.

What’s my point? I just needed to bitch.

And for those who are wondering where that damn book is after all this time, well, now you know some of it is still locked inside my head. But I’m hoping to unlock it soon.

BTW, I often get my bride or one of my girls to proof read for me after I’m done with all of my device readers and spell check cheats. But today none are available. Hopefully my bugged brain caught enough typos to make this make some sence. Or is that sense? I’m sure it’s not sents….

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Ode to Mr Lee

It’s been 11 years since the world’s best dad passed away. I’ve been trying to do my best to be a little bit as awsome ever since.

My Dad, Lee Seefeldt, was the king of dads. There’s no doubt.

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He taught me how to be a great man just by living as a great man. I haven’t usually lived up to what he thought, but the bar has always been there — something to aspire to.

My Dad was great as a captain of industry or a political force. He was just great every day being true to the people he loved.

My Dad was bricklayer and average man from a quick glance. But he was far from average.

You could count on him, full stop. No questions asked. If you needed Mr. Lee, you didn’t have to ask. He showed me that with his actions and he reinforced with with his words.

He took life seriously, but not too seriously. He told me to read the newspaper everyday, to always vote and to think hard every time I went to a ballot box. He thought me that the little things are what matter. Your kid, your wife — it should be crystal clear every day that you love them — they should feel it and they should hear it.

He taught me to aspire to be great at your craft, but not to neglect the other things and the people in your life,

He taught me how to step out of my comfort zone to do what needed to be done when it needed to be done.

And he taught me how to be brave and gracious in troubled times — something he really drove home in his final days.

He even taught me how to get along without him — evern though it sucks to do so.

Dad I pray there is a lake in heaven with fish that can’t resist your hook. And that there is a bar playing 50s music where you and mom can jive the night away. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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Ode to Mister Lee

It’s been 11 years since the world’s best dad passed away. I’ve been trying to do my best to be a little bit as awsome ever since.

My Dad, Lee Seefeldt, was the king of dads. There’s no doubt.

IMG_0068

He taught me how to be a great man just by living as a great man. I haven’t usually lived up to what he thought, but the bar has always been there — something to aspire to.

My Dad was great as a captain of industry or a political force. He was just great every day being true to the people he loved.

My Dad was bricklayer and average man from a quick glance. But he was far from average.

You could count on him, full stop. No questions asked. If you needed Mr. Lee, you didn’t have to ask. He showed me that with his actions and he reinforced with with his words.

He took life seriously, but not too seriously. He told me to read the newspaper everyday, to always vote and to think hard every time I went to a ballot box. He thought me that the little things are what matter. Your kid, your wife — it should be crystal clear every day that you love them — they should feel it and they should hear it.

He taught me to aspire to be great at your craft, but not to neglect the other things and the people in your life,

He taught me how to step out of my comfort zone to do what needed to be done when it needed to be done.

And he taught me how to be brave and gracious in troubled times — something he really drove home in his final days.

He even taught me how to get along without him — evern though it sucks to do so.

Dad I pray there is a lake in heaven with fish that can’t resist your hook. And that there is a bar playing 50s music where you and mom can jive the night away. Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

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A bad sign of the times

Technology has mostly been my friend post the brain sizzle thing.

The program that reads my writing back to me allows me to edit what I write. And the reading feature on my Kindle means I can get through a book or newspaper at regular speed like you and other “normal” people.

Without these bits of tech my 50 word per minute turtle reading would make getting through a book a months long project. And as far as work goes – I just wouldn’t be able to keep up with the emails, reports and constant churn of other reading that I need to get through each week.

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I don’t like to think where that would leave me and my stroke modified mind.

My mobile phone is also a life saver taking voice notes and photos that I can use to counter act my zapped reading old school writing skills. Gads of other gadgets and tech toys have made it much easier for this brain zapped boy to keep up with the rest of the world.

Yes, technology has really evened the playing field for me post stroke. But sometimes technology runs amuck. Too much of a good thing can go bad.

I was at a fast food burger joint the other day where they wanted me to order on a screen, tapping as pictures, words and dollar signs flashed by. I was with my bride and we got through. But it was touch and go there for a while.

How long will it be before all people are replaced by tech tools at checkout counters and the like? Before gadgets and gizmos that were designed to help us start running the show?

Take the checkout counter at a grocery or department store. It’s great that technology makes it easier for staff to work faster and reduce mistakes. It’s even ok to have self serve options to make things move faster on a busy day. But it seems to me that I see more machines and less people working every time I drop by a supermarket.

So many new technologies start by making things easier for average folk. But then as we get hooked on them, they often go too far. The focus becomes only about moving things along faster and cheaper and the human bits are zapped. And that’s where things go south.

Convenience is great, but I choose the real teller over the automated one because I don’t have to struggle reading the screen, I get to shoot the breeze with the teller and I help make their job continue to make sense to management. Often times a good teller provides real value – a heads up on a soon to come sale, noticing a missing button on a shirt I’m about to buy and just being nice making me more inclined to return.

It may be old fashioned, but I have a feeling that customer service and product knowledge are actually pluses that help a business thrive over the long term. Enough well trained real people in a shop actually help move happy costumers quickly. And tech gadgets make their share of mistakes, as well, BTW.

I get that some folks prefer to skip real people and that’s a choice I can accept.

But what I’m noticing with a lot of new technology is that it’s rushing folks along so quickly that it’s eliminating all human connections. You press buttons into the machine and stand silently for a few minutes with other people who’ve just tapped their orders in, somebody calls your number, your grab your stuff and off you go.

No time for convos. No time to waste. No time to get to know new folks and to learn the stuff we learn through random human contact.

For me it’s a double nightmare because I just can’t keep up to these screens. I time out, things buzz and zap and I end up with the wrong things or nothing at all.

Some stuff I can learn, like gas station pump keyboards and bank ATMs, as long as I stick to one brand or company. But the more complicated the questions and the prompts, the more likely I am to pay too much for something, get the wrong thing or wind up in secondary screening at the airport.

And every time I chose a machine versus a person, I’m missing out on a conversation. And that can cost me anything from a great story to a good deal.

The more tech becomes the norm over people at our shops and customer service counters, the fewer options folks like me and others with reading, vision and learning disabilities will have.

But that’s really only a small problem in the big picture of things. The more the norm is to connect constantly on our devises, to connect with computerized order takers and service ‘bots, the more distant human connections become. The more we’ll see groups of people in coffee shops and bars alone with their devices.

People won’t ask people to dance or strike up conversations in pubs…they’ll just hook up digitally and slowly but surely the skills and thrills of human interaction will slip away. It’s already happening. I was recently in a pub when my beer mate shuffled off to the loo. I took a peek around the joint as I sat alone and noticed at least 10 tables with two or more people where no conversations were happening. They were together but alone, focused on their devices.

If my disability keeps me talking to real people, I guess I’ll count it a blessing.

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