Archive for August, 2011

Prisoner At Large

Being the prisoner of a progressive disease is a daily fight for freedom, a war to never let the disease define you. Multiple Sclerosis means waking up every morning, attempting to get out of bed, and then being jerked to the floor and reminded that you are wearing an invisible ball and chain. Yes there are good days. On the good days, I behave like a sailor on 24 hour leave, but as always, I digress. The quandary is that at any part of the day, without warning, the ball can go from being a 5 pounder to a 100 pounder to a 1000 pounder at any given moment. The ball can also change places, it can be attached to your leg, your arms, your brain, your lips or all at the same time.

Its been 10 years since the diagnosis.

Its been 10 years since September 11, 2001.

The ball’s minimum weight is rarely 5 pounds any more, its more like 50. Yes it is a burden that can overcome your spirit and at times it wins. I confess to moments of weakness.

It is during one of those times of weakness that I received this letter. I received this letter from a young handsome man in prison who will be there for what most of us would consider the prime of his life. It is a letter from Michael Behenna, a prisoner at Leavenworth, convicted of murdering a known Al Queda killer, while serving in the military in the Middle East. He serves us as a result of the September 11 attacks and multiple terrorist attacks against innocent people. He serves us.

From Michael’s letter:

King Solomon had a dream in which God came to him and said “Ask me anything and I will give it to you.” King Solomon answered “I am but a little child.  I know not how to go out or to come in, but I am a servant of thy people.  Give me, therefore, an understanding heart that I may judge thy people wisely and fairly.”  And God said “Because you did not ask for the lives of your enemies, did not ask for longevity, did not ask for riches, because you asked only for this one thing…understanding, I will give you understanding.  There will be none wiser than you on this earth.”

So each day I strive to not focus on the bad, but to find the good.  I immerse myself in books that take me a thousand miles from this place of concrete and steel.  I push forward in my quest of self-discovery and self-observation seeking wisdom to call my own.   From the small window in my prison cell I can see a cornfield where a farmer toils in the hot summer air and I find myself longing to walk that field and feel the earth beneath my feet and the sun against my face.  My hopes are to someday have my own land upon which I will raise cattle and spend all my waking hours in that warm sun upon my horse whose name only I will know. 

Gratitude is not something one would expect to find behind these walls, but it is here where I found it…waiting to teach me what really matters in this life.  And while I sleep she gently reminds me how truly blessed my life is. 

Read entire letter here

So this morning, waking up with my friend the ball and chain, I admit to being discouraged and vulnerable. That is until I read Michael’s letter.

A letter froma man in prison cheers ME up?

We all have our prisons, some are inflicted upon us, but many are built by our own hand, as is occasionally mine. Pray for Michael Behenna. Pray that although his prison may continue to hold his body, his spirit will remain free.

How Obama Spent Your Summer Vacation

We chose a vacation in upstate New York in an attempt to escape the oppressive Philadelphia heat, at least for a week. It was a seven hour drive and traffic wasn’t bad, despite it being a Saturday in August. Weird. New York state is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The mountains and flora are simply majestic.

But I digress.

Upon arrival at our destination on Lake Champlain, we are thrilled with our simple, but well placed accommodations. The view of the lake and the mountains can be seen from every window. Our front porch is covered and is right on the lake and has two comfortable rockers. We both know that this is where we will be spending most of the week, on those two rockers.

We can see Russia from our front porch. Okay it’s Vermont. Close enough.

We arrived a bit early to check in so we drive around a bit looking for a place to dine out lakeside. Our trip into town was revealing.

Like many Pennsylvania towns, once filled shopping centers here in NY are largely empty. Many of the big anchor food stores are closed. Most of the independent stores are gone and mostly the drug stores and liquor stores remain. Many of the old small neighborhood bars and restaurants are also closed. We ask in the liquor store if there are any restaurants on the water that remain in business, and the gentleman kindly fills us in. There are two.

We chose the restaurant that is very close to our cabin and had a marvelous meal. The service was excellent. We left happy. As we are leaving, we are startled as the waitress runs out to speak with us, before we drive away.

She came to thank us. Apparently a 20% tip is no longer expected around these parts. Holy crap. We promised to return.

As we departed and arrived back at our humble but perfect cabin, we settle in, unpack and take our subconsciously assigned seats on the porch were we intend to sit for the week and watch the world go by.

Except it doesn’t.

There are maybe 100 boats, most of them sail, anchored off shore and not docked in the marina. No one is on any of the boats. The lonely vessels are without skippers or passengers; they bob like corks in a tub, their sails tucked away.

Night comes and still there are no signs of life on the boats. No lights, no nothing. No fisherman, no sailors, no party animals. Dead. Its a Saturday, and it is August.

Sunday comes and only a handful of boats pass by. Only one of the anchored sailboats has left us. It was towed, with its life raft lagging behind.

The sun is bright, the sky is blue. It is about 80 degrees with no humidity and a steady breeze, yet no one sails. None of the motor boats are coming or going with the exception of a very small vessel that seems to be occasionally taxiing a person or two from the island across the way.

I can almost hear Rod Serling’s voice telling me I’m in the Twilight Zone. What I do hear, way back in the deep and haunted recesses of my mind, is a voice that talks about shared sacrifice.

It is expected that the Obama family will be vacationing this week in Martha’s Vineyard. They will be staying at a rented mansion that they have taken a liking to that has been reported to cost up to $50,000 a week. The Obama’s pay for some, but the taxpayer covers a great deal of the expense.

I see the sacrifice, but am wondering where the sharing starts.

Dusty Stuff in the Throttlebottom Attic

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