All Quiet on the Publishing Front

Books

2019 is turning out to an abject lesson on how hard it is to get published.

The last few months of 2018 was dedicated to putting the “package” together for prospective publishers, which included a biography, a chapter summary, a book synopsis, a competition analysis and a market analysis. I silently cursed a blue streak when those requirements were laid on me, primarily because I had no clue how to go about preparing the last two items, and because it represented unexpected work during a time when we were just breaking ground on the new house.

Perhaps established or more experienced authors have a personal assistant they can pawn this shit off to, but us rookies don’t have that luxury. So I slaved away over a period of two weeks, trying my best to emulate some examples my agent sent me. I thought the final products were pretty good for a neophyte, and emailed them to my agent along with a long list of prospective publishers she asked me to vet, and in mid-January I received a list of publishers my agent sent inquiries to.

Although I am a glass-half-full kind of guy, I wasn’t naïve enough to assume the publishers would come flocking, begging to be the ones to let my brilliant debut see the light of day. But I was confident that there would be modest interest, and that I’d have a book deal by the end of the year.

Ever since, all I have heard is the sound of crickets.

I knew that my agent wasn’t sitting around eating bon bons because K was getting some interest in her manuscript, as we both have the same agent. Nothing came to fruition, but at least she’d get the occasional email telling her who received the latest referral and what the response was.

I got zilch! Complete and utter silence.

I’d send an email every couple of months to make sure my agent was still alive and hadn’t forgotten about me, not that I really thought that. Each time she indicated she was still fishing but wasn’t getting any nibbles. This was discouraging to say the least, because I honestly thought what I wrote was pretty good, and that somebody would want to take a peek. The last time I reached out she indicated summer is traditionally a very slow period, and she’d make another concerted push come fall if nothing turned up in the interim.

By now I had resigned myself to the reality that this wasn’t going to happen. For whatever reasons, what we had wasn’t enticing enough to generate anyone’s interest and ask for more. Part of me wasn’t displeased because I assumed once that happened, more work would be required of me, and that I’d have to start writing another manuscript if I became published. This would require time I did not have, with the ongoing house construction and subsequent move.

So I didn’t obsess over the lack of interest. Yes, it would have been a nice ego boost, and who couldn’t use a little extra income from book sales, given the cost overruns with the house. But honestly, I’m so fried from getting this house finished that I stopped caring about anything else. If it happened, great! If not, well, it was worth a try. I’ve got more important things to worry about, and I’d happily go back to regular blogging once the move was completed and we were finally settled in  the new place.

Then, out of the blue, I received an email late last week from my agent who informed me that one of the founders of a New York publishing house asked to see the manuscript, not just the first few pages, and my agent emailed the entire manuscript in addition to all that other stuff I had to prepare last year. I was assured this was a “BIG DEAL.” Shortly after that, an editor from another place in Toronto expressed interest and received the same package. Just this morning, she let me know a third publisher, a large New York firm whose stable of authors includes, or had included at one time, James Patterson and David Baldacci, Nicholas Sparks and John Grisham, is reading the manuscript.

I’m told they all good possibilities.

Am I doing cartwheels? No. I am cautiously optimistic though. I figure the more eyes that see it increase the odds that someone will want to take a chance on an unknown like me. It’s nice to know my work isn’t going to wither on the vine, and that some unbiased, professional people will read my work. Regardless of whether they want to take it on or not, I’ll get some valuable feedback. If I’m not for them, perhaps they might refer it to a colleague who they believe might be interested, and the action that I believed would happen early in the year might finally happen.

Who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky. Wouldn’t that be a nice housewarming present?

It’s Getting There

Last pic

Daze

A brief update as I climb back into the saddle

It was good to take a step back for a few weeks and recharge the writing batteries. The break provided me with time to look forward to getting behind the keyboard once again, not to mention provide time to let my mind wander and come up with a host of ideas and subject matters.

Having said that, the new house has become an all-consuming monolith that dominates my daily life. I took week off to start getting our current house in shape for the market in addition to helping out at the job site.

This process is taking a lot longer than we hoped or expected. The first house we build in 1997 took about seven months to complete. Our current home took less than six. We assumed this project would be no different, however we are currently into our ninth month of work. There are a number of reason for this, which I might elaborate upon in the future, but we truly expected to be moving in any day now when we initially broke ground. Instead, the sheetrock will be completely up and taped by week’s end.

The pace of our progress picked up when K took control of the project several weeks ago, and I suspect that will continue on the remaining items that need to be done: painting, the finish carpentry, the cabinet and fixture installation, the lighting, the flooring, the garage, the final excavation and grading of the site,  installing the driveway and seeding the lawn. There may be a few tiny things I’ve missed but those are the biggies.

The biggest fly in the ointment right now is the excavating. The individual we hired is now doing this part time, his hired help is gone, and the laundry list of items that need completion are long. We have sniffed around to see if there are other contractors that can pick up some of the slack, but so far have been unsuccessful in our search as they are all booked with other projects. If we do find someone, I am sure they won’t be cheap, and this project is already way, WAY over budget.

Then there is the stuff needed to get our current house ready for sale. That list is almost as long as the one needed to finish the new place, which was the motivation behind taking last week off.

The pressure to get this all done is immense because we want to be get the house on the market while the weather is still nice. We initially believed everything would be settled before the end of August, and that the financial piece of this odyssey (selling our house, settling our accounts and depositing some funds instead of constantly drawing from them) would soon be over and we would begin enjoying the new homestead, the move a painful memory. Instead, our goal has morphed into moving by late August/early September, which is not ideal because the goals was to get the house sold before all the kiddos go back to school. That is a pipe dream now. Our original timeline allowed us to fix up the old place once we were moved and it was emptied. Instead it is more likely that we have to do this and put it up for sale while we live there. That means we have to work on both places simultaneously. Maybe that is for the best because I have read is it always better to sell a house when your are still living in it rather than when it is empty., but it does complicate things exponentially.

Our heads are swimming with all the stuff that needs to be done, and how to deploy our dwindling resources. I don’t remember the process being as stressful as this one has turned out to be, perhaps because we are financing most of this, but it is what it is. I forgot, but now vaguely remember, everything coming to a head towards the end of the process, where you feel like the tail is wagging the dog.

Meanwhile, it is soooooooooooooooo freaking HOT! I picked the hottest week of the year so far when took last week off. Temps were in the 90’s with high humidity all week long, and I felt as if I were melting. As you know, MS and heat are not a good match, but I plowed through it for eight to nine hours each day, drank a ton of water, then jumped into the pool to cool down when we called it a day. My body was thoroughly shot by evening, and I shuffled around the house like Frankenstein. Crawling into bed felt like heaven, but by morning I was so stiff it took a while  to get loose enough to get back at it.

Nonetheless, I survived and in some ways thrived. It was good for the ego to learn that I’m still fairly useful, even though it takes a lot longer to do things compared to the pre-MS days. But at least I still can. My balance and leg strength seems to be a little worse than before. I can’t tell if this is real or imagined, but it feels like it is more difficult to get around under controlled conditions. Then again, that disappears when I get to the job site. Maybe it is the motivation or adrenaline to get things done. Maybe it is all in my head. I guess we’ll find out when the move is actually complete and we can finally exhale.

Mother nature isn’t going to relent, unfortunately.. The heat index is going to be in the 105-110 range this weekend. It is going to remain hot next week, and many are predicting this will be the hottest summer in recent memory. That’s par for the course. We’ll have to be smart about working in that environment.

So as I climb back in front of the keyboard, I don’t know if this will be an every week thing again or whenever I have the time. I am sure you will read more about our progress in the short term, as it is the easiest and quickest thing to write about. Completing the house and actually moving has become an obsession, time is limited, and this will be a good outlet to vent. However, I’ve had a few epiphanies during my hiatus that I want to share, and will eventually get to them.

One before and after pic opened this post. Here are a few more to give you a sense on how far we have come. At times both K and I feel like we are running on fumes, only to get to what by now must be our fourth or fifth wind. In the scheme of things we are in a final sprint on the home stretch, but it feels like it will take forever to finally reach the finish line.

Pic7

Pic1

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Unsettled

Unsettled

It has been a while since I’ve written about the new house, primarily because the process has been slow and steady.  I may have mentioned before that this is the third time we’ve done this, the last time having occurred almost twenty years ago, and each time reminds you of the the highs and lows that go with the territory of such an endeavor. I had forgotten about the myriad of decisions that have to be made, about the emotional swings, and how the progress can feel like it is zipping along one week, then slow to a snail’s pace the next.

Memories of the first house we built are near and dear to my heart, primarily because it was the first, but also because we fired the contractor before we were under roof. With the help of my father-in-law, a retired carpenter who could, with perhaps the exception of pouring a foundation, build a house from top to bottom, we became our own general contractors and finished the job in less than four months. That experience is a story in itself.

Each house is different, and this one has the distinction of K being the general contrtactor from the start, and because we started in late autumn.  It has been an interesting process so far. When we initially broke ground, it was easy to measure the progress because clearing the site, pouring the foundation and floors, framing the structure and installing the roof were all visable markers.

It was exciting to witness, but the project was still in its infancy, and didn’t feel real in many ways.  That may seem a little silly because the eyes don’t lie, and you could see the drawings on a blueprint come to life, but we were still making tweaks to the design, and the idea of actually moving felt distant, at least for me. True to form, I compartmentalized the entire concept of what I knew would eventually arrive. After all, why fret over something that isn’t imminent?

Since then, it hasn’t been as easy to chart the progress, yet the progress has been real and is now moving quickly. Once the shell was up, the roof on and the windows in, the indoor work began. Once that occurred, the structure really began to take shape, although it might not have appeared to looking at it from the outside. But as we speak, the inside has been competely framed, all of the interior plumbing has been roughed in and so has most of the electical wiring and interior duct-work.  The siding is more than half-way completed, and the deck that will also have a screened-in porch is almost done. Every time I go on site I see something new and different. You can see the rooms take shape, and see how everything fits. It is beginning to look like a real house, and I am beginning to think of our current home in the past tense.

We still have a ways to go. The garage floor needs to be poured, the sheet rock needs to go up, all the cabinetry and fixtures need to be installed, the finish carpentry needs to be completed, the heating system installed, the plumbing and electrical work finished, the floors installed, the walls painted, the driveways created and the exterior grading finished. But most of the decisions have been made in regards to the materials and subcontractors, and it is a matter of lining them up and getting them in. I am hoping that we will be able to move into the new place before July is over, but have no idea how realistic that goal is.

Nonetheless, the move is imminent, and therefore very real. As exciting as that prospect is, and as much as I want it to happen sooner than later, we are also in a state of limbo, and I find that very unsettling.

Why? Well, an endeavor like this has a lot of moving parts, and while you try to plan for the choreography of events that never ends, it never goes according to plan. There are always glitches and unexpected costs that need to be addressed. I knew from the beginning that as this project neared completion, the bills would begin to mount, and that things would be tight until we sold our current house. That has always been my hot-button, and it is on the verge of being pushed.

While the thought of being settled into a house that I know is well built and tailored to our specifications is comforting and brings a smile to my face, the idea of moving makes me want to curl into a fetal position. This will be our fifth move, but I was a lot younger, more able-bodied, and full of piss and vinegar during the previous four. Perhaps I was also a more naive about what the move actually entails: packing boxes,  unpacking boxes, setting up the new house, and getting the new lawn and landscaping established. I know better now.

Then there is the process of getting our current home ready for the market, which in my mind is worse than the actual move itself. We have some cosmetic work that needs to be done to make the house look its best, and have to inventory every single item we own, deciding what to keep, donate, pawn off or take to he dump. It is a time consuming, tedious and mind-numbing process. I am very impatient when it comes to this shit, and want to devote as little time as possible to it. I don’t want to debate the details of what stays or goes, so my impulse is to throw a lot of stuff away, consequences be damned! K attaches more emotion, sentimentality and careful thought to the process, so I am going to have to do my best to meet her half way and not become irritable as we comb through the history of our life in that place.

Once all that is done and the move is completed, the final hurdle is to sell the house for the price we want. I am feeling the pressure of time, because common sense dictates you want to sell your house during the peak selling seasons of spring or summer. Waiting until the fall or, God forbid, winter, would not be ideal. We’ll be up to our eyeballs in debt by then because we will be carrying what amounts to two mortgages, and when that occurs I will be a basket case of worry until the house is sold.

How the MS is going to factor into all of this is anyone’s guess. I know I don’t do well in the heat of the summer, which is theoretically when all of this will occur. I also know a lot of stress isn’t good either, but I don’t see how that can be avoided. I have no idea whether the MS is going to allow me to be as involved and engaged as I want to be and, assuming it does, what my body will feel like when this is over. This was not a factor before, and brings an another layer of anxiety to the process. I want to roll up my sleeves and do as much on site as I can instead of paying others to do it, but will my body allow it? I’ll probably be sucking on that vape pen quite a bit.

These were all realities last fall, but they were theortetical. It’s an entirely different ballgame when they are on your doorstep. Between dealing with the day to day issues of getting the house built, dealing with cost overruns and planning for the actual move, the new house has taken a life of its own and consumes most of our time and energy. The strain is worse on K than for me because she is the general contractor. She is on the front lines every day, and has to deal with a myriad of personalities and other crap that is too long and complicated to get into.  She is really good at this and has done a remarkable job, but it is sometimes painful to witness.

We are on the verge of entering the final stretch, where everything comes to a head. Critical mass is approaching where we prepare and transition from one place to another. I feel it approaching. It is an unstoppable force, a test of endurance, stamina and nerve.  The feeling is exciting and terrifying, exhilarating and draining.

Summer has always been my favorite season. I have always enjoyed this carefree time of year when when I’m lounging by the pool, enjoying evening fires on our patio, and hanging out in shorts, t-shirts and bare feet. I’m always saddened when September rolls around because I know the cold winter months will soon be approaching. I never imagined a day would come when I’d wish the summer away, but here we are.

I can’t wait for this to be over.

Shit Happens

happens

A short post today as I got off to a late start this week and won’t have much time over the weekend to write.

I was talking with a friend yesterday and learned of an event that just occurred in their life that could have long term implications, most of which aren’t great, and it got me to thinking.

We get inundated by the marketing apparatus in this world that portray images of health, wealth, fun and carefree, easy lifestyles. Depictions of hardships, struggles and sadness are in the minority. After all, that stuff is a downer and doesn’t sell. It’s easy to get sucked into the delusion that we are either doing something wrong if our realities don’t match up with what these ads show us, or give us the impression that what they show us is attainable if we only tried harder.

If it were all that easy.

The truth is life isn’t that simple, and shit does happen. Some of us either need bigger shovels or use the one we have more than others, which isn’t fair, but life isn’t fair, and everyone needs hip boots. These issues can become potholes on life’s super freeway, and it’s how we deal with these events that define us.

Take me, for instance. I’m an optimist by nature, a glass-half-full kind of guy. I think  I have had it infinitely easier than most in my life. For instance, I have never had to deal with the loss of a child, a life-threatening illness, or had to struggle financially. I’ve always been well fed, had a roof over my house, a loving family and support system, had an excellent education and a successful career.

Having said that, it hasn’t been all peaches and cream. Not even close. MS is the most obvious because I write about it, and is near the top of my shit happens list, but it is not at the top of that list.  There have been a host of other situations and scenarios that I have had to deal with, and continue to deal with, that are not fun. Some of these events have put a tremendous emotional strain on my family. Their fallout remains, and probably always will.

I would have easily traded getting MS instead of having to endure certain events in my life, but we never get to make those choices.

Nobody escapes this world unscathed. Just because an individual or a family has appeared to be blessed with good luck and have never had to struggle, don’t buy it. All it means is they hide it better than others. Not everyone wants to talk about their personal travails, preferring to instead to share the good in their lives, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Do any of you truly know anyone whose lives have been constant sunshine?

Experience has taught me that life is like being on a life raft in a vast ocean. Sometimes the seas are calm, or you have a fun ride on a wave that is pushing your forward into a good situation. Sometimes you are caught in an storm with relentless giant swales that come crashing down upon you, threatening to submerge you and everyone on board. All you can do is hang on for dear life, try not to drown, and hope the storm passes soon. With practice, maybe you learn how to navigate the swells better.

You also hope that the rogue waves, the monsters that come out of nowhere, catch you completely off guard and are the most dangerous and toughest to negotiate, rarely occur.

If you know someone who is going through a tough time, reach out to them. The simplest thing, like letting them know you are thinking about them and rooting for them can make all the difference in the world.

 

 

 

Perception vs. Reality

reality

“I wonder what people think when they see me.”

That was a common refrain of mine once the symptoms became entrenched and my mobility became compromised. I was never one who liked to stand out in a crowd, preferring instead to blend into the background. MS made that impossible. My inability to walk in a straight line, my tendency to thrash my arms about to maintain balance before the cane became a constant companion, and the frequency in which I would stub my toe and stumble forward because I refused to slow down, made it feel like the  white hot spotlight shone on me whenever I was in the public eye.

The idea that people made assumptions because of the disability used to really bother me, and on the rare occasions where I actually fell in public, I wanted to dig a hole and bury myself out of sight from those prying, judgmental eyes.

I don’t feel that way anymore. Quite frankly, I don’t care one iota what anyone who doesn’t know me thinks when they see me struggling. Having said that, not caring isn’t the same as not being curious, because I still sometimes wonder what a person’s perception is the first time they see me.

What do they see? What do they think? Are they sympathetic? Are they afraid? Do they think I’m a freak? Perhaps they are so wrapped up in their own heads they don’t notice me at all.

I try to think back of what my reaction would have been when I had an uncompromised body and was the one observing someone like me today. In all likelihood, I would have given them a casual glance and not give it a second thought. Perhaps I would have wondered what their story was, but would have spent maybe ten seconds pondering that question before focusing on the task at hand. Any thoughts I may have had would have evaporated, just like deleting an obsolete file from a computer.

I was self conscious at first because I wasn’t comfortable in my own skin. Not wanting to appear weak or unsure of myself, I worried that the image I projected made that impossible. I was also hung up on the primary progressive label attached to my MS, which convinced me that I was going downhill fast, which only fed my insecurity.

The most intriguing aspect about having a chronic illness or disability is that you learn a lot about yourself. My self-esteem from a physical perspective was shattered, but over time I learned that physical appearances and ability are not what defines us, although it’s a pity it took something like MS for me to realize that. What I also learned is that that my priorities were wrong.

Career and money were very high on my list, you see. But of all the humbling realities something like MS forces upon you, the one true gift it provides is perspective.

In hindsight, I think family, friends and health were always important to me, but not like they are today. My career had to take a hit because I couldn’t physically handle the stress and demands of the position I was in, and with that came a loss of income, which really freaked me out because the fear of being broke had always been my Achilles heel.

But I was fortunate enough to land in a place where over time I was able to recoup that temporary loss, and the reality of not having to deal with all the crap that comes with  being a boss in a middle management position was an unexpected bonus. My ego took a hit at first, but that soon faded as the amount of stress I endured in the work place shrank to practically nothing.

Not having the work distractions I was accustomed to for over twenty years, in addition to having diminished physical abilities, made me appreciate and understand how important family, friends and health were. It’s a cliché, I know, but when your health is compromised, material things don’t matter. What matters is the love and the people in your life.

That epiphany allowed me to step back and reassess where I was and where I was going. Many of the little things that used to concern me fell by the wayside. One of those, although it took some time for me to get there, is that strangers’ perceptions of me were unimportant.

It helped that what I thought “progressive” meant in terms of how quickly my physical ability was going to deteriorate didn’t materialize. Remember, this was almost eleven years ago. I thought that by now I would be unemployed, wheelchair bound, on disability, in searing pain, and unable provide for my family the way I was accustomed to. So I am lucky in that respect.

But the not caring about what others might think evolved because I learned how mentally tough I really was. There is a line in the Shawshank Redemption, where Red talks about his future and the two choices before him: get busy living or get busy dying. I chose the former.

Self-pity wasn’t something I was going to indulge in. I was going to do whatever it took in the way of treatments, drugs, diet, and things of that nature to keep the progression at bay and live as normal a life as possible. I wasn’t going to let MS rule or define me, and a rebellious nature I never knew I had bubbled to the surface. Of course, I’ve fallen a few times, literally and figuratively, but for the most part this has served me well.

Maybe attitude has nothing to do with this. Maybe I’ve been lucky in that the progression hasn’t accelerated like I thought it would. I still think there is a very good possibility what I feared in the beginning will eventually occur, but I was planning on pulling the plug at work in five to six years anyway. I think I have that many good years left. Probably more, if I’m honest.

Having said all this, I still wonder on occasion what people think when they see me, but not for the same reasons I did eleven years ago. I’m curious because I’d love to know if their perception matches my reality.

I seriously doubt it.

 

A Building Update

building

There is a lot going on right now, and my head is swimming.

The fact that Red Sox have marched through the playoffs these last two weeks has gobbled up what little free time I have, including sleep time, because I have watched every inning of every game. To complicate things further, I am up to my neck in getting a package prepared that will go to prospective publishers soon. That is a story in itself, which I will detail when I’m done.

These two events have conspired to devour time ordinarily spent writing for this blog, which has presented a dilemma. One of my goals this year was to post something every week, and despite occasionally struggling with a subject matter,  I have managed to meet that objective.

This is a strange week because I have plenty of topics but am pressed for time, so this week’s post is going to be a quick one.

I’ve written in the past about building a new home, the last entry occurring in August. I am happy to report that we closed on the property a few weeks ago, the blueprints are completed, and we recently received building permits that will allow us to finally break ground. That’s the good news. The remaining hurdles are time and money.

TimeFrom a time perspective, our goal was to break ground before it froze, and have the structure under roof and enclosed before winter sets in so the finish work can continue, which would allow us to move by spring. That in turn would allow us to put our current house market in the spring, which is the best time of the year to sell in New England.

We fell a little under the gun on this front because the permit process took longer than expected,  and we are still waiting for the person we engaged to get the frame up to give us his numbers so we can put an overall project budget together. It’s almost Halloween, believe we must break ground next month, otherwise we will run out of time and not be able to start in earnest until spring, which will put us about a year behind schedule. I can hear the clock ticking.

As far as money is concerned, I can’t believe how much costs have increased since the last time we did this in 2000. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say they have almost doubled. We already know this is going to be more a lot more expensive than we originally thought, so the challenge is going to be how we will make this work.  K and I have already committed a lot financially just to get to where we currently are, so making major changes to our plans is not an option.

MoneyIn one respect, waiting another six months wouldn’t be terrible, as it would provide an opportunity to squirrel away a few more pesos. But the danger in that, besides knowing  building costs will only get higher with the passage of time, is that the stock market will crash and interest rates will spike. So the quicker we can proceed, the better.

Once we start moving dirt I can get more into the details of what our vision is and share the trials and tribulations of being our own subcontractors, but until that day comes we are in a state of limbo, anxiously waiting for the final set of numbers.

I’m not the most patient guy in the world, but should have known better than to think things would go according to plan. When it comes to house building, nothing ever goes completely as planned, hurry up and wait is they typical modus operandi, and the entire process is stressful as hell. My MS should love that. We also have never built during the winter before, so this is going to be an interesting experience. The original thought was that there would be more of a selection of  plumbers, electricians and other tradesmen to choose from, and therefore get better prices, because there isn’t lot of competition for their services in the winter. We’ll see if that was assumption was astute or naïve.

Buckle up for the ride. Hopefully it won’t be too bumpy.

 

A Walk in the Woods

Hike

Quick program note: Shodan has become Nidan (pronounced knee-don, with the accent on the first syllable).

You have probably guessed that is not my son’s real first name. I originally christened him Shodan because he is an exceptional martial artist, having learned the Cordone-Ryu system, which is similar to Shorin-Ryu for those of you in the know, under the tutelage of Grandmaster Nicholas Cordone for over ten years. In March of 2017, he achieved his first degree black belt, known as Shodan, and two weeks ago he was promoted to second degree, known as Nidan. Therefore his pseudonym has changed as well, and will continue to evolve as he climbs the martial artist ranks.

Nidan loves nature, and is a rock-hound.  He’s become quite adept at searching for and finding interesting rocks of all kinds, but is currently on the hunt for quartz and flint. Hurd State Park is within twenty minutes of our house, and has been his go-to place for rock exploration. He’s waxed poetic about the peaceful wEM1oods and trails he navigates in his pursuit, and it sounded like an interesting place, so I asked if he’d mind if I tagged along during an excursion last weekend. Nidan loved the idea, and away we went.

Truthfully, I didn’t expect to do much. I was familiar with the area and knew the trails were definitely not flat. I figured I’d tag along for a little while, then retreat to the comfort of our vehicle while Nidan continued his exploration. As we were leaving the vehicle, I realized that I left Zorro at home, and thought my plans were about to go up in smoke before I took one step. After all, without my trusty cane, there was no way I was going to attempt to navigatge those trails.

Nidan saw my dilemma, and wasn’t about to let me back out at this stage of the game. So he searched for less than a minute and discovered tree branch that had fallen to the ground that would serve as a walking stick. It was sturdy and straight, so with stick in hand, I followed Nidan to a point in the road that was about a quarter mile from where we parked, and followed him onto a downhill path at the entrance to one of the park’s trails. The first two hundred yards was partially paved, as if it was an overgrown, decaying,  long forgotten driveway. Once we hit the bottom of the hill the blacktop disappeared, and Nidan veered left onto a rustic trail that took us over a small brook. Fortunately, there were large, flat rocks that I could use as a stepping stone, otherwise my journey would have ended less than ten minutes into our trek.

The state park we went to covers over 1,000 acres and has over six miles of trails through densely populated woods. The trails are marked by colors painted onto the trees, and were completely natural and rustic. What I assumed would be a brief foray into nature EM2turned into a three hour adventure over trails that frequently had prodigious protruding roots, had a number of brooks that needed crossing, and were mostly heading in an uphill or downhill direction.

To make a long story short, I had a blast and surprised myself. We obviously were not burning up the trails as far as speed was concerned because my pace was slow and deliberate, but the fact that none of the trails slanted sideways made the route easier to navigate than my back yard.

I would take breaks from time to time, particularly when he came upon a parcel of ground that was densely populated with rocks. Nidan would carefully pluck or excavate them from the ground, and take them to the nearest brook so he could wash away the dirt, study them more closely, and decide whether they were keepers. When there were more items than he could carry, he’d find a place along the trail and lay them there, knowing that on the return trip he’d have a mental inventory of everything he unearthed, and could decide which ones to take home or leave at that time.

EM 3I obviously could not keep up with him, but Nidan always made sure never to stray so far we could not hear one another, his dismembered voice frequently drifting through trees saying “you doing okay Dad?”

After we were at it for while, and the afternoon shadows started making an appearance, I suggested it was time to leave, and he readily agreed.

The trek out of the woods was more taxing than the trip in, primarily because it was more downhill, which is harder for me, and because my leg was feeling fatigued by then. It was harder to negotiate those protruding roots, as the toe of my sneaker frequently got trapped in their clutches. I was in inchworm mode by then, so I never lost my balance. By the time we emerged, it felt wonderful to ease back into the comfy passenger seat.

RockI learned a lot about myself that afternoon, First and foremost, it was wonderful to explore nature with my son and experience the outdoors in a manner I hadn’t in years. It was enlightening walking through the woods as peers rather than as father-son, and his attentiveness and concern to how I was doing was touching.

Secondly, I learned that I am not as physically inept as I assumed. We were on our feet for over three hours, traversed at least three miles of territory, and other than the weakness I ordinarily feel when I push myself, there wasn’t a single moment where I feared for my safety, nor was there a single time where I came close to falling or twisting my ankle. Maybe it was because I was paying very close attention to each step I took, but I was no worse for wear than I am after a rigorous workout on my recumbent bike. I certainly felt better compared this past winter during some of my snow removal experiences. Besides feeling good about myself, I emerged from the experience optimistic that maybe what I have been doing all these years to address the MS is actually working.

I also discovered that I’m not in bad shape physically. I wasn’t huffing or puffing during any point of the adventure. I couldn’t feel the drum of a pounding heart in my ears, and rigor mortis did not set in later than night once I settled down into the rocker-recliner. The only souvenir I had from the experience was a sore left triceps muscle, compliments of the walking stick I kept in that hand. I had leaned on that stick numerous times, and used different muscles than the ones I normally use leaning on a cane, but that discomfort was gone within twenty four hours.

Woods

Yes, I had moved and slowly and carefully during my walk in the woods, but the odd thing was I never felt disabled. I can’t remember the last time that happened. It gave me a different perspective on my abilities, and reinforced what I had long suspected, which is that while I have a disability and have physical limitations, I am better off than most, and am not anywhere close to becoming a couch potato unless I allow that to happen.

I can’t wait to do it again.