Monday, October 29, 2018

World stroke day

World Stroke Day is observed on October 29.

I didn’t really think about strokes until I had mine. My two strokes were caused by a torn carotid artery because of a genetic condition called fibromuscular dysplasia.

The bottom line is 20% of my brain is dead and I have aphasia. I was 50 years old and in good health.

This photo shows my brain scan. The white sections on my brain shows dead brain tissue.

Here are some sobering strokes statistics:

Stroke kills about 140,000 Americans each year--that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths.

Someone in the United States has a stroke every 40 seconds. 

Every 4 minutes, someone dies of stroke.

Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke. 

About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.

About 185,00 strokes--nearly 1 of 4--are in people who have had a previous stroke.

About 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, in which blood flow to the brain is blocked.

Stroke costs the United States an estimated $34 billion each year.

This total includes the cost of health care services, medicines to treat stroke, and missed days of work.

Stroke is a leading cause of serious long-term disability. 

Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of stroke survivors age 65 and over.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Stroke recovery and deodorant

Last weekend I was in Austin, Texas for a meeting. I’m on the Board of the Idaho Housing and Finance Association and this was a national meeting.

During the trip to Austin, I was thinking of all the travel I used to do professionally. I was the CEO of the Idaho Association of Realtors®️, the lobbyist and a vice president at Boise State University, and the director of the Associated General Contractors in Idaho. With those jobs I also traveled throughout the state and the Northwest.

That means from 1984 until January 10, 2012 I traveled extensively for work: Hundreds of flights, airports, conference rooms, and hotel rooms.

One morning in Austin, I laid out my travel bag with items such as a razor and a toothbrush.

I was struck about those ordinary items that are used to take for granted.

In the hospital right after my massive stroke, my therapists patiently made me name those items. For toiletry items, I had to figure out how to use them.

It was incredibly humbling and perplexing for me. I didn’t know how to shave. I have no concept of a toothbrush. Deodorant was a foreign thing.

I was getting ready for my morning meeting in Austin I took a picture of those items could I used to routinely use.

Even now, I have to be very deliberate using those items. I have my routine. Often I have to pause for a moment make sure that I did everything correctly.

I’m grateful that I have the ability to be useful again. And I never take anything for granted especially deodorant!

Friday, September 28, 2018

"Mark Dunham Show."

Yesterday, I chaired by weekly Aphasia Support Group. Always arrive early to make sure that room is set up. Before that, I scout topics about Aphasia, traumatic brain injury, strokes, etc.

Every week, try to identify YouTube videos or articles so I can led the group for an hour. Internet is my friend.Getting ready on Wednesday, I "checked in" on Facebook to convey that I was feeling positive to see my fellow stroke and aphasia survivors.

On my personal Facebook page I posted a picture of our meeting room plus a cartoon about brain fatigue.

Every week, ask everybody "how have you been doing this week?" We all know each other. We understand our stories. We understand the unseen challenges every day that nobody knows about.

When we were talking about brain fatigue, we all commented -- given that because of aphasia some of us cannot speak very well -- "it is real."

One person commented that every minute of every day needs to have a conscious effort to deal with our brains. From tying a shoe or maneuvering down the stairs to our meeting room takes very deliberate brain activity.

Without exception, we get tired and need time to rejuvenate our brains. I call it my "silent space."

We also watched a video about anger management after a stroke. Several people commented that they have "short fuses" now. 

Some of us (like me) do not really show a lot of emotion. For me sometimes it is sadness. Often I’m just too tired expand the brain energy because my batteries are running low.

One person said, "It must be exhausting to be that ‘Mark Dunham’ because of your responsibilities and being so visible."

I laughed but it’s true. I am tired putting on the "Mark Dunham Show." 

That show was exhausting at times. I ruminate and multi-task in my damaged brain. 

Putting on the Mark Dunham Show (Public official, survivor, family man, volunteer) is hard. I keep trying to be the old Mark Dunham. There are cracks in my foundation.

I talk about all of this with my Aphasia friends. Nobody else understands. 

Monday, September 24, 2018


Yesterday, I was completely wiped out. Physically and emotionally, I just needed a "time out!"

My wife keeps reminding me that 20% of my brain is dead. "Cut yourself some slack," she admonishes me.

My parents had a very strong work ethic, and we could never be "lazy." Even though I have brain damage, I still feel lazy if I’m not doing something productive. Childhood habits die hard.

I saw my neurologist last week for my yearly check up. She’s always been concerned that I tried to do too much. I am trying to think about my "limits."

I’ve been involved with some recent stressful issues. My son’s health is one thing. Also, I also am the chairman of the board for the College of Western Idaho. Chairing those meetings and strategizing about campaigns and personalities has been more stressful recently.

In addition, yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my mother’s death.

So basically I just crashed and burned. A massive headache ensued. I got very emotional. The stress of my son’s diagnosis, dealing with college issues, and feeling helpless got the best of me.

My wife insisted that I take a headache pill prescribed by my neurologist. 

I took a five hour nap yesterday. It helped.

But I still feel guilty. Blah, blah, blah.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fake friends?

Every Wednesday, I attend the Idaho Aphasia, Apraxia, and Dysarthria Support Group which is basically a support group for stroke survivors.

Today we shared our experiences like losing friendships after strokes. 

It was an eye-opening session for me. All afternoon I’ve been thinking about real friendships. 

My mom died almost 6 years ago. On her deathbed, she bluntly told me "Maybe your strokes were a blessing. You can feel sorry for yourself or you can make a difference. You have a choice to make."

Every week I am blessed to gather with my fellow stroke warriors. I am so grateful for their strength. 

Mom was right.

Nevertheless, I did lose a lot of friends after my strokes. Many survivors tell the same story.

Some fell away because they were so despondent about the "new me." I get it but it’s sad.

Some so-called friends disappeared because I was not useful anymore. I didn’t have a political action committee perhaps? 

Some friends were supportive. For a year or two. But this is a lifetime sentence.

Some call to "catch up" and then I realize they need something. A little political insight? Background information on a business issue? 

But I do have real true unwavering friendships that I cherish.

I love those friends and family. Thank you. You know who you are.

A couple of years ago, I deleted at least 600 " "friends and followers" from Facebook and Twitter. I was subjected to bullying trolls mainly for political reasons.

After today’s session, I really thought about the value of real friendships. 

When you almost die or when your son gets illness, I have decided I’m not gonna waste my time dealing with toxic people, fake friendships and users. The purge will continue.

For my fellow stroke warriors, this article is for you:

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Nick Lowe and good intentions

"Cruel to Be Kind" is a 1979 single by Nick Lowe and it was a favorite song of mine in high school.

The sentiments are pretty appropriate now. So many people believe that they have to be cruel to be kind to deal with the emotions my strokes and my son’s celiac disease.

I have joined so many Facebook groups dealing with strokes, aphasia, and celiac disease. Those online support groups are incredibly helpful for me.

With those three conditions our family has experienced, the common thread often is "It’s God‘s will" or "it will just take time to adjust."

Though well-intentioned, often people say "I have to say this. I know it’s hard. But I have to be cruel to be kind let you know that need to just buck up and accept this new reality."


Today, a stroke survivor on Facebook lamented that her brother basically said, "We’re all tired of your shit. Just get over it and move on. We’ve moved on. I don’t think you realize how much your stroke has affected everybody else in your life, I’m telling you to just stop dwelling on the past."

In other words paraphrasing this common sentiment "I know better than you so I’m telling you this to be cruel to be kind."

It seems people say things like that because "we are too close to the reality and don’t understand what’s really happening." 

My son’s celiac diagnosis is pretty recent. Yet I’ve already had people tell me that "Just make him change his diet right now. He just has to accept it. He’s always been picky and he needs to buck up."

It’s just not that easy. Adolescence is tough anyway with hormones, peer pressure, not wanting to be different, etc. Then you have the added pressure of this confusing and scary disease?

So when people say just get over it, I call bullshit.

It’s just not eating gluten free stuff. There is a wholesale lifestyle change such as cleaning out pantry’s, spices, cutting boards, toasters, shampoo, cosmetics, etc. Gluten is in everything. 

Just like with my strokes, it is hard to get over celiac disease. 

So when well-meaning yet uninformed people it is tough for me to keep my mouth shut. 

No, "He can’t just cheat for holidays. How about on Sundays?"

I think I might have to be cruel to be kind and say "just shut the hell up."

It’s like the old adage. You cannot be a little pregnant. It means it is a situation in which there is no ambiguity or no gray area.

There’s no gray area. I had two strokes. I have fibromuscular dysplasia. I have a aphasia. My son has celiac disease. 

My wife asked to deal with of this. She is a saint. Yet when people are so arrogant about her reality and trying to be cruel to be kind, it infuriates me. She doesn’t deserve this.

This is a lifetime sentence, and people think that it’s cruel to be kind when they have no idea about our reality.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Sinatra and my son

When my son was diagnosed with celiac disease about a month ago, we have had ups and downs. He’s missed several days of school because of the illness.

A couple of days ago, he sick and he missed his morning classes. We let him sleep in.

I laid on the bed with him with his dog. I watched him for half hour in the dark. I stroked his brow. It was so peaceful.

About a beautiful song recorded by Frank Sinatra. This lyric summed up my feelings that morning:

"Quiet thoughts and quiet dreams,

Quiet walks by quiet streams,

And a window looking on the mountains and the sea, oh how lovely."

It was lovely morning and I lovely memory my son.


Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Am I a hollow man?

6 1/2 years since my strokes, I am dealing with a new challenge involving my son. Recently he was diagnosed with celiac disease.

Dealing with the aftermath of my strokes was challenging physically and emotionally.
Yet, this diagnosis is heartbreaking.

Certainly, it is not fatal and will be controlled by a life long diet.
Nevertheless, I am struggling to keep it together.

I’ve always been a strong person. Despite my strokes and my brain damage, I try to continue to lead a normal life.

Since the diagnosis of my son’s celiac disease, I’m struggling to find answers about the effect of my strokes and my son’s diagnosis.

With my strokes and my Aphasia, meaningful communication is difficult. How can I find words to comfort my son? How can I find the words to help him deal with his 13-year-old emotions. I cannot even help with his homework.

Research shown that personality changes are common after a stroke. Despite my best efforts I "fake it" a lot. Honestly, every day is struggle. I try not to let people know the affects of my strokes. I am not ashamed of my strokes. I do not try to hide my brain damage and the Aphasia. However, given the emotional toll of my sons diagnosis, I need to realize that I cannot dwell in my sorrows.

Today I read an British article about personality changes after a stroke.

"Personality changes: After a stroke, existing personality traits can become exaggerated. Alternatively, people can behave in ways that are out of character for them. Personality changes after a stroke can include:

  1. Not feeling like doing anything.
  2 Being irritable or aggressive.
  3. Being disinhibited – saying or doing things that seem inappropriate to others.
  4. Being impulsive – acting without thinking, and doing things that are not safe or are not appropriate."

"Sometimes changes in behavior are aimed only at the people closest to the stroke survivor. This is quite normal. Most of us only show the more difficult parts of ourselves to the people we are closest to because we know they will probably forgive us. However, if the behavior is extreme it can isolate us from the people around us. Sometimes, stroke survivors do not realize that their behavior or personality is different. This can make it difficult to address these changes."

One line in the article it home to me: "Behavior is extreme it can isolate us from the people around us."

My son’s diagnosis -- though recent -- has simply isolated me even more. I feel isolated from my son, my wife, family, friends, and people who depend on me.

It seems that I am struggling to keep my emotions in check. With my Aphasia, I have to pick my words carefully. But I find that I get too angry and emotional to deal with the situation.

Therefore, I have become silent and I deal with this alone.

One of my favorite poems is T. S. Eliot "The Hollow Man."

"Shape without form, shade without color,
Paralyzed force, gesture without motion;
Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom Remember us-if at all-not as lost, Violent souls, but only, As the hollow men."

I feel like a hollow man. Isolated and alone, dealing with my strokes and my son’s illness.


Monday, September 3, 2018

Celiac disease and "Textbook" answers

Recently, our son was diagnosed with celiac disease. Here is the textbook definition:

"Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated to affect 1 in 100 people worldwide. Two and one-half million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications."

"When people with celiac disease eat gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye and barley), their body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body."

Bottom line for victims like my son?

These are the things that can happen:
 • Anemia, usually resulting from iron deficiency
 • Loss of bone density (osteoporosis) or softening of bone (osteomalacia)
 • Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
 • Damage to dental enamel
 • Mouth ulcers
 • Headaches and fatigue
 • Nervous system injury, including numbness and tingling in the feet and hands, possible problems with balance, and cognitive impairment
 • Joint pain
 • Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
 • Acid reflux and heartburn


It’s not a textbook example when three years ago our fifth-grade son complained of stomach aches and cramps and nothing helped.

It is not textbook when for three years we took him to doctors who missed the symptoms of this incurable disease.

It is not textbook when people think that "he’ll get over it in time."

It is not textbook people say "he’s just a picky eater."

It is not textbook when people called him lazy and faking his sickness.

It’s not textbook when your son is so depressed and fatigued that he just doesn’t want to live.

It is not textbook people think that gluten-free is a fad.

It is not textbook that people think that it’s just gluten intolerance, not a real disease, or you can take a pill.

It is not textbook that it took three years to get an answer because my wife insisted to get a different blood test.

Since my strokes, I’m convinced that doctors are well intentioned yet "educated guessors."
My doctors missed the obvious signs of my upcoming strokes caused by my Fibromuscular dysplasia.

The good news is we caught this early. The only cure is a strict gluten-free diet.

The bad news is practical ramifications of this diagnosis are sobering.

How do you tell your 13-year-old son that he can’t have Pizza or run to McDonald’s with his buddies? What can he eat at a birthday party? What about family get-togethers like Thanksgiving and Christmas?

Will friends and family understand or get too impatient with this new life changing event?

We have been reading a lot about food preparation and restaurants since this diagnosis.

Here is a short excerpt that is very helpful: "Home, Safe Home -- Help Clients With Celiac Disease Avoid Gluten Contamination in the Kitchen" by Lindsey Getz

"Although celiac disease is manageable and treatable, a diagnosis can overwhelm patients. After all, the condition necessitates significant lifestyle changes.

"Simply buying gluten-free products is not enough; patients with celiac disease must practice safe food handling, preparation, and storage in their homes. While maintaining a safe kitchen involves a lot of responsibility, dietitians can arm their patients with helpful tips to make the task seem less daunting."

"Flawless Food Preparation and Handling: The gluten-free market has come a long way. Today there are more products available than ever before, and people with celiac disease are realizing they can enjoy many of their favorite foods again."

"But keeping food truly safe means avoiding cross-contamination with gluten-containing products, something that’s not always easy to do in a busy home kitchen."

In addition, there’s a huge cost involved. Three years of expensive doctor visits with no answers. Finally getting an answer through very expensive procedure in the hospital. There will be the follow up and expensive visits with specialists. Finally, cost of gluten free foods are exorbitant.

And honestly, as my son said, "Dad! Most of this food taste like shit."

My son had to go up too just because of my strokes. And now he has to deal with this issue. When he starts to date he will have to explain to his date that he has a disease. "I’m sorry I cannot eat that! It is basically poison to me." How many scenarios will have to endure throughout his whole life?

Today he just want to go to McDonald’s. He said he doesn’t care if he dies.

I know this is new. Emotions are raw and real. I know he’s 13 years old. I know people will just say "he’ll get over it."

And he will.

Where is the textbook for me to help my son?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Newspapers and fluff

My mother-in-law, Phyllis Saxton, grew up in Caldwell. She and her husband, Harvey, owned Saxton Fruit Farm on the south side of Lake Lowell.

She is spending a couple of days with us recovering from shoulder surgery. She loves her newspapers. She reads the Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Press Tribune.

This morning, I cut up the newspapers so she could read with one hand because of the shoulder surgery.

In my opinion, Idaho Statesman shadow of its former self. They still have great reporters, but there it’s not really a lot of news anymore.

On the other hand, the Idaho Press Tribune based in Nampa is expanding their news coverage throughout the Treasure Valley. They hired the best political reporter in Idaho, Betsy Russell. They have a robust presence in every way.

After cutting out the fluff, classifieds, and ads, this photo shows why the Idaho Press Tribune has more in depth news coverage then the Statesman. Pretty sad.

Even when my mother-in-law goes back to her own house, I’m pretty sure I will read the Idaho Press Tribune.

Things have really changed.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Mailbox and Aphasia

Recently I completed a very simple project. Our old mailbox post is comprised of one 40 year old 4 x 4 post and the horizontal supports made by two 2 x 4’s.

Through the years, all the boards have splintered. I have tried to fix the boards for years with nails, screws, etc.

Our neighbor’s mailbox basically fell off several months ago and I tried to fix it with new screws. 

Last week when my wife was out of town, I decided to completely fix the whole thing. I did this when she was out of town because she’s very nervous when I use any tools at all. 

Because of my strokes, vision loss and my aphasia, it is a little difficult for me to do simple handyman jobs that used to be second nature to me. I sold my tablesaw but kept my miter box.

I did complete the job. No blood was shed.

But quite honestly, in the old days it would’ve taken me maybe 30 minutes to do this whole job.

This job took at least 10 hours including brakes because sometimes I get overheated and dizzy which is common with strokes and fibromuscular dysplasia.

It was actually fun for me to figure out how to complete the project. I had a small level, hammer, cordless drill, drill bits, different screws, small angle brackets, black spray paint, etc. Using some of those simple tools were exhausting for me because of the complex brain activity I had to expend.

The most difficult part of the job was measuring the new boards. Using a tape measure is incredibly difficult for me because it’s difficult for me to understand numbers.

I cut two new 2 x 6 brackets. But I wanted the brackets to be centered to the post. The 2 x 6’s were cut 16 inches a piece. It was difficult for me to understand that half was 8 inches.

Double checked it several times.

I also asked my son to double check it as well. My son helped me level the new brackets. Also helped me spray paint the wood.

It was a great father son day and was very rewarding for me just to do something constructive.

But I simply miss the logical process of doing a handyman project. When used to help build houses and you made a living installing carpet with sophisticated measurements, it is still disheartening when I cannot understand how to measure a 16 inch board.

So odd. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Twitter and Aphasia

 After my stroke 6 1/2 years ago, my wife let me have my phone. I was dazed and confused but I wanted to check to see if I could even use my phone. 

The first thing I did was to login to Twitter to check news. The 140 character Twitter app what is a convenient way for me to read news.

Unfortunately, even though it was only 140 characters, I could not read the news. I cannot understand and comprehend letters and numbers. 

During my rehab stint, my therapist was trying to explain to me about Aphasia. Reading comprehension difficulties are a common feature of aphasia, affecting the understanding of single words, sentences, paragraphs and extended text. 

Though Aphasia is not curable, through years of therapy and compensating, I have gotten better. 

Recently, I bought an Amazon Fire Stick. To set it up, I had to enter my password and my user ID.

For years after my strokes, I simply could not complete that task. Often, though embarrassing, I would ask my young son to enter all the information. It was just beyond me.

I would try to complete it carefully. Nevertheless, I just could not do it. In addition, concentrating so hard caused massive headaches.

Last week, I registered the new Fire Stick with no problems at all. I completed it in one try. 

Certainly, the Aphasia made it difficult. On the TV screen I would have to punch every letter carefully and firm every letter was correct.

It was cumbersome and time-consuming. Yet I celebrated that small victory. 

We all have to celebrate small victories.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Headaches and strokes

A lot of my childhood memories for earaches. I had chronic earaches.

I would pray to make the pain stop. Sometimes when I would wake up there would be blood on my pillow and I was actually happy.
In my childhood brain, blood meant that my eardrum would rupture and the pain would go away.

Even now, in my 50s, doctors often comment that I have so much scar tissue on my eardrums.

The earaches went away when I was about 10 years. When I was 50 years old, my strokes happened. As a result I have chronic headaches.

When I was a little boy, my mom would hold me and whispered to me saying "I want to take your pain away." She had a beautiful singing voice and she would sing soft lullabies to me so I could fall asleep despite the pain.

Today is an especially painful headache day. I miss my mom anyway. She died almost 6 years ago.
Upstairs in a darkened cool bedroom I’m dealing with my headache pain. I really wish my mom would sing a lullaby to me.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Support Groups

Are my strokes 6 1/2 years ago, I attended some local stroke support groups. As my brain cleared through the months, I became more aware of my conditions.

I wanted to explore "me." What is Aphasia? What are the statistics? How can I reach out to other survivors?

I started to do some online research about strokes and aphasia. Though reading was still difficult, I researched as much as I could. I wanted more.

"More" in the sense that I wanted to reach out to people like me: Younger stroke survivors with Aphasia. When I would attend stroke support groups, most of the time the survivors were much older than me. I craved interaction with people who could understand my issues.

And I had many issues. I lost my career and my income. I had a young son. Lost my identity in a sense. How was I going to fill up my days? With Aphasia, not even pursue my hobbies such as reading and woodworking.

I do love my older stroke survivor friends, but most of the people who attend stroke survivor groups are all retired people. Several of my younger survivors talked about decades of illness, boredom, worrying about money, etc.

I was 50 years old when my strokes happened. I was on the top of my game and in one instant I crashed and burned. Was I going to deal with this for another 35 or 40 years?

I needed something different to look forward to. I wanted more resources to help me.
Again I searched the Internet. Out of the blue, Facebook I found out that there are so many stroke and Aphasia support groups online.

Though the survivors are essentially strangers to me, we have been connected through this exclusive club that nobody wants to join: survivors.

Despite Facebook flaws, I have joined so many stroke and aphasia support groups on Facebook. I often get tips and support.
ften, I support others are going through tough times.
At the same time, Idaho State University conducted intense two week aphasia workshop. I was a participant in June of 2012. It was a great program with one and one and group activities. The eight participants had different degrees of Aphasia.

Two years later, ISU asked several participants to start a new local stroke and aphasia group. Four of us are grade and with the university’s resources we started. Three months later, we were on our own.

I became the chair of the group several years ago. I was committed to use technology to help people. I started the Idaho Aphasia Facebook page.

Every week, try to put more content on our Facebook page. Most every day, I have posted videos some sort.

Often the content is through other aphasia and stroke support Facebook pages.

Through my own Idaho Aphasia stroke support group on Facebook, I have reached more people then I ever could’ve imagined.

Last week, I did my own presentation at our group. I go to school sometimes talk about stroke, aphasia, recovery and hope. I put my presentation on YouTube and posted it on many other Facebook stroke groups. As a result, more than 800 people throughout the world have watched my presentation.

Stroke and Aphasia are lonely conditions. Especially with Aphasia when you have trouble communicating in many ways. You feel trapped in your head.

Through technology, online stroke support resources, and YouTube videos isolation of stroke and aphasia is better than I thought.

I’m so grateful that I have these friends all of the world share my same story.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Us Versus Them

We were invited to a brunch to celebrate a friend’s mom’s award as the "Congregant of the Year" at her church.

At the brunch, most of the people were pretty elderly. As one older woman was leaving, out of the blue she said, "Oh this must be the Republican table." 

"What," I responded?

She confirmed that she heard that we were the Republicans in the group. Nervous laughter ensued because none of our group voted for the current president. 

In fact, a close friend of mine at the brunch might be a Democratic Socialist. 

None of us voted for Trump or Hillary Clinton. Two horrible candidates so we voted for other people for our own self respect.

Nevertheless we had to defend ourselves for no reason. 

I realized at that brunch, that the political venom is getting so personal that a geriatric political progressive needs to chastise people she doesn’t know anything about.

I used the term "political progressive" on purpose. This woman stereotyped without knowing anything about us. I don’t know anything about her also. When she said that statement out of the blue, I thought about Representative Maxine Waters angrily telling her supporters to chastise Trump and his staffers.


I thought about telling her that yet I realized that that would confirm her suspicions about me even though I do not agree with President Trump.

The whole point of this post is that the political vitriol is getting so extreme even a religious brunch to celebrate an old woman’s church award is now political.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

100 years ago today a boy was murdered

100 years ago today, Czar Nicholas II and his entire family were executed in a bloody basement room.

Vladimir Lenin, the Bolshevik leader, ordered the murders. The tragedy of this murdered family paled in comparison to the tens of millions murders throughout communist history. Nicholas and his family were just the start decades of carnage because of the Communist Party.

Nicholas was incompetent at best. He was an inept demagogue. He was vain, isolated, and relatively stupid.

Romanovs also killed many people during their 300 year reign. Certainly I am not excusing the brutality of Russian life.

Nevertheless, the backstory was a personal family tragedy. They had five children and the youngest was the only boy.

He was born with hemophilia because of his mother, one of Queen Victoria‘s granddaughters.

The royal houses of Europe were ripe with first cousins marrying first cousins. Hemophilia was the result.

This personal tragedy was kept secret because of political implications.

As Nicholas and Alexandra cared for their son, they became even more isolated and out of touch. They tried everything. In a vain attempt to save their toddler’s life, they met the "mad monk" Rasputin.

Alexandra was convinced that he would save their son’s life. In the midst of this, World War I started.

As an aside, the three rulers at the start of the war were first cousins: Kaiser Wilhelm, King George of Great Britain, and Czar Nicholas. Cousins often fight at Thanksgiving, but these people had armies!

Nicholas was always incompetent as ruler. But leading his troops during the war was even worse. Indecisive and arrogant, Nicholas finally had to abdicate.

Unfortunately the damage was done. When Nicholas was leading his troops into defeat for years, Alexandra tried to govern. In reality, her sounding board was Rasputin. He was the puppet behind the throne. There were riots and famine. It got worse over time.

In this awful power vacuum, Lenin swooped in (fronted by Nicholas’s first cousin - yet enemy - Kaiser Wilhelm) and took control of the whole country.

 I have always been a Russian history buff. Hundred years ago today, a small family was murdered in basement.

It was a personal yet a political tragedy.

I often wonder about that little boy. He was murdered when he was 14 years old, shot in the head first, shot multiple times and then bayoneted.

My son is 13.

If Alexei Romanov had not been born with hemophilia, perhaps the whole world would’ve been different.

Perhaps. Idle speculation.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

CT scans and bruising

My two strokes were 6 1/2 years ago. Ever since I’ve had headaches.

Recently, I have had a new kind of headache which caused my neurologist to order another CT scan. Usually a CT scan is about a 15 minute process.

However, I’ve always had "difficulty veins." Nurses have always had difficulty finding a vein to insert an IV.

As an elected official and a former lobbyist, I have a thick skin. Who knew underneath that tough skin is a mishmash of bad veins!

Recently, I was poked and prodded for three hours. Finally a neurosurgeon used an ultrasound to find a vein. He still had difficulty.

As a result, my bruises have a wide range of colors!
The doctor, nurses and the radiologists kept saying that I am "such a kind and patient man." It’s not their fault and screams are overrated.

The good news is, the CT scan showed NO new brain damage. The bad news is six years of headaches with no relief.
But I’m still alive!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The sounds of silence

Recently, my wife mentioned started my blog 10 years ago. She also noticed but I have not really bloggod for months and months. That is completely true.

I started my blog to keep track of memories of our son. My blog changed focused years ago when I had my strokes.

Since my stroke 6 1/2 years ago, I’ve tried to write about my stroke experience. Honestly, gotten feedback that I should just "get over it." It is time to move on.

At the same time, I was subjected to Internet trolls. For a while I thought about fighting back, because I am a middle aged white male, my opinions don’t really matter because I am "privileged."

A year ago when I was confronted with Internet trolls, I had to find a definition:
"A troll will use shock value to promote arguments in conversations, commonly in Facebook threads and in public online discussions. Named after the wicked troll creatures of children's tales, an internet troll is someone who stirs up drama and abuses their online anonymity by purposely sowing hatred, bigotry, racism, misogyny, or just simple bickering between others."

This is a really good definition. However, my Internet trolls were not anonymous. These trolls blatantly called me out for my opinion.

The reaction was swift and horrifying. Responding to a friend’s social media post, I suggested that her words would hurt her reputation. It was a very benign post.
In response, I was subjected to disgusting Internet troll. Laced with profanity, the bottom line was my opinion doesn’t matter at all because I am "A white privileged middle-aged male." Therefore my opinions don’t matter.

I endured the trolls for a while. I actually thought that some of the comments were pretty funny because the trolls are so hypocritical. I found it ironic when women would tell me that I was mansplaining. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Here is my new term: "womanspaining."

But it did not stop.

Therefore, I took a pause on social media for a couple of weeks and now months.  I used the time to reflect on the situation. I thought about my own biases.

I do completely understand that I am pretty lucky because I have not had to deal with a lot of prejudice in my life.

I also started to research social media privacy settings. I only use Facebook and Twitter. I researched those settings to make sure that I felt safe online.

I deleted hundreds and hundreds of so-called followers and friends. I made sure that I had strict protocols and privacy settings.

And finally, despite all of this, I still feel that my views don’t matter anymore. Throughout my life, tried to be a good person and to be fair to all. But I am again I am a middle-aged white male so I am to privileged unless progressives agree with me.

I do know the strokes cause emotions to change. Maybe I am too sensitive or too paranoid.
But I will try to blog again. But I do feel that my opinion is not valid anymore.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

The Poseidon adventure

We left Greece and bordered a ship at Patras. It was supposed to be an overnight trip leaving at 7 PM arriving by noon the next day arriving at the port of Acona, Italy. Then a three hour bus ride through Tuscany to Florence.

Instead, the ferry left at 8:00 PM and in the middle the night we stopped Albania for a couple of hours. There is mix up with food.

The cabin were incredibly claustrophobic. It was almost oppressive.

We basically have the whole day on the shelf for the kids played Uno and lounged around. That night the high school kids enjoyed the onboard disco. Heather did win €125 in the casino.

After a 22 hour boat ride, we boarded a bus for a 3 1/2 hour ride. 

It was an exhausting ordeal actually. 

The next day we explored Florence. Stay tuned for the next blog post.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Greek orthodox and Catholic‘s

Being a history buff, I’ve always understood that the Catholic Church was split in about 1000 A.D. Our Greek tour guide mentioned the differences a little bit yesterday, but she did not capture the full history.

Today I saw a small Greek orthodox by the roadside and I’m going to insert about the history.

Eastern Orthodox Catholics and Roman Catholics are the result of what is known as the East-West Schism (or Great Schism) of 1054, when medieval Christianity split into two branches.

The Byzantine split with Roman Catholicism came about when Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne, King of the Franks, as Holy Roman Emperor in 800. From the Byzantine viewpoint, this was a slap to the Eastern Emperor and the Byzantine Empire itself — an empire that had withstood barbarian invasions and upheld the faith for centuries. After Rome fell in 476, Byzantium was the only vestige of the Holy Roman Empire.

Charlemagne’s crowning made the Byzantine Emperor redundant, and relations between the East and the West deteriorated until a formal split occurred in 1054. The Eastern Church became the Greek Orthodox Church by severing all ties with Rome and the Roman Catholic Church — from the pope to the Holy Roman Emperor on down.

Over the centuries, the Eastern Church and Western Church became more distant and isolated for the following reasons:

Geography: The West encompassed Western Europe and the northern and western areas of the Mediterranean and the East took up Asia Minor, the Middle East, and Northern Africa.

Ignorance: The Byzantine Church knew less and less Latin and even less Latin tradition, and vice versa. So most patriarchs in Constantinople couldn’t read any Latin, and most popes in Rome couldn’t read any Greek. Byzantines in the East used leavened bread in their Divine Liturgy to symbolize the Risen Christ, and Latins in the West used unleavened bread as was used by Jesus at the Last Supper.

Different theologies: Both were valid, but each had its own perspective. The West (Latin) was more practical and, although fully believing in the divinity of Christ, put emphasis on his humanity when depicting Jesus in art — especially by making realistic crucifixes. The East (Byzantine) was more theoretical and, although fully believing in the humanity of Christ, focused on his divinity, which was much more mysterious.

Personalities and politics: Michael Cerularius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Pope St. Leo IX weren’t friends, and each one mistrusted the other. Cerularius crossed the line when he wrote in a letter that the Latin use of unleavened bread was Jewish but not Christian. He was denying the validity of the Holy Eucharist in the Western Church. Leo countered by saying that the patriarchs had always been puppets of the Byzantine emperors.

In the end, Pope Leo and Patriarch Michael excommunicated each other and their respective churches. But more than 900 years later, in 1965, Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras I of Constantinople removed the mutual excommunications.

Eastern Orthodox branches include the Ruthenian, Ukrainian, Greek Catholic, Melkite, Romanian, and Italo-Albanian Byzantine Churches. In addition to the Byzantine, Eastern Catholics also include Maronite, Coptic or Chaldean Catholic Churches.

In any event, the schism that divided Christendom right down the middle exists to this day. Although both sides accept the validity of each one’s orders and sacraments, no inter-Communion exists between the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox. That means that normally speaking, Catholics aren’t allowed to receive Holy Communion in Orthodox Churches, and conversely, Orthodox shouldn’t receive Holy Communion in Catholic Churches.


Today we arrived in Delphi after the three hour bus ride. The scenery is amazing. This is Greece I’ve heard about: Cobblestone streets, quaint shops and restaurants, and crazy one-way streets! And the smallest bathroom we’ve ever seen. 


We had the opportunity to go to Europe for spring break. Yesterday on Saturday, we toured Athens. 

We saw the temple of Poseidon which was stunning. 

The temple of Poseidon at Sounion was constructed in 444–440 BC. This was during the ascendancy of the Athenian statesman Pericles, who also rebuilt the Parthenon in Athens. It was built on the ruins of a temple dating from the Archaic period. It is perched above the sea at a height of almost 60 metres (200 ft). The design of the temple is a typical hexastyle, i.e., it had a front portico with six columns.[6] Only some columns of the Sounion temple stand today, but when intact it would have closely resembled the contemporary and well-preserved Temple of Hephaestus beneath the Acropolis, which may have been designed by the same architect.

As with all Greek temples, the Poseidon building was rectangular, with a colonnade on all four sides. The total number of original columns was 34: 15 columns still stand today. The columns are of the Doric Order. They were made of locally quarried white marble. They were 6.10 m (20 ft) high, with a diameter of 1 m (3.1 ft) at the base and 79 cm (31 inches) at the top.[7] At the centre of the temple colonnade would have been the hall of worship (naos), a windowless rectangular room, similar to the partly intact hall at the Temple of Hephaestus. It would have contained, at one end facing the entrance, the cult image, a colossal, ceiling-height (6 metres (20 ft)) bronze statue of Poseidon.[8]

After that we toured the Parthenon and the acropolis.

The Parthenon (/ˈpɑːrθəˌnɒn, -nən/; Ancient Greek: Παρθενών; Greek: Παρθενώνας, Parthenónas) is a former temple,[4][5] on the Athenian Acropolis, Greece, dedicated to the goddess Athena, whom the people of Athens considered their patron. Construction began in 447 BC when the Athenian Empire was at the peak of its power. It was completed in 438 BC although decoration of the building continued until 432 BC. It is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, generally considered the zenith of the Doric order. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art. The Parthenon is regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy and western civilization,[6] and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. To the Athenians who built it, the Parthenon and other Periclean monuments of the Acropolis, were seen fundamentally as a celebration of Hellenic victory over the Persian invaders and as a thanksgiving to the gods for that victory.[7] The Greek Ministry of Culture is currently carrying out a programme of selective restoration and reconstruction to ensure the stability of the partially ruined structure.

Today we are headed to Delphi on a three hour bus ride.

We are chaperoning about 20 Borah high school students. They have been great kids so far.