Pre-Birthday Post

Tomorrow I’ll be 51 years old. By all rights I should’ve not made it this far. And while I continue to recover from my strokes and other ailments, I thought I’d take today to reflect on a few things and some decisions I need to make for 2016.

AAEAAQAAAAAAAALBAAAAJDNhNzgyOTI5LTA1NDctNDIwZS05MjkyLTQ3MzE2YTY2ZDNjYgTo be honest, I haven’t just sat back and “reflected” on my life for a long while now. I’m a little rusty, so bare with me.

I realize that I’ve been holding a lot of anger in check for a couple of years. When people lie to you that tends to happen. But (upon reflection) what I realize is this. Anger, is incredibly unhealthy. I know—shocking. People will make choices in their life. I cannot make choices for them. If they choose to behave poorly, that’s THEIR choice. Life is too short to continually play the victim for something I have no control over.

But what I CAN do is forgive and move on. That’s my choice. The anger was beginning to spiral out of control and taking me toward a very dark place.

I CHOOSE to not be angry. I CHOOSE to forgive.

So the first of four key attitude shifts for 2016 is Forgiveness.

 The second word for 2016 is perhaps the hardest for me. That’s Patience. I’m a product of the “me” generation—instant gratification. Whether it’s a new gadget I just MUST have, or being stuck in traffic, leaning on the horn and yelling at no one in particular, I must learn to be patient. Stopping to smell the roses occasionally is not a bad thing. Neither is taking an afternoon walk to stroll along a beach or to watch a child’s swim meet. Or to help an elderly person with their groceries (instead of getting annoyed because they move too slow).

Number two is Patience.

 The third word for 2016 is Kindness. I used to be kind…well, a lot kinder then I am today. It’s time to reverse that trend. Oh, don’t worry. I’m not about to lose my sarcastic streak or my cynicism. But kindness is a way of life and I need to embrace that more than I have as of late. A lot of things have happened to make me bitter and resentful over the past few years. I just need to get over myself and rejoin to world at large. I’m not talking about moving to Africa to help build schools there. That would be impractical at best. But I need to pay more attention to my surroundings—help where it’s needed. It’s amazing what a kind word or two will do.

Now to the fourth and last of my words for 2016. Appreciate. To often I’m “too busy” to really appreciate the people (family, friends, co-workers etc.) around me. I need to be more vocal about that. Appreciation and encouragement—be the person I always meant to be.

So let me start this one right now.

For all of you who took the time to write to me when I was ill, for all the flowers candies and cards that arrived. For the phone calls and the hospital visits. And most of all to my wife who stood watch over me during the darkest (and nearly last) hours of my life—

Thank you. You have no idea how you all helped me to get back on my feet again. I’m truly blessed by having you in my life.

And I appreciate all that you have done for me.

In 2016, I’ll prove that.

Yes, I almost died. Almost. Tomorrow, I celebrate 51 years of life. It’s time to start living again.

Happy New Year.

Peace.

 

 

My Childhood Awakens

This will be a spoiler-free review, specifically because my son hasn’t seen the latest Star Wars picture yet. I will also be reminiscing a bit because…well, because I can.

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Approximately 30 years after the destruction of the second Death Star, Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi, has disappeared. The First Order has risen from the remains of the fallen Galactic Empire and seeks to eliminate Luke and the Republic. The Resistance, backed by the Republic and led by Luke’s sister, Leia Organa, opposes them while searching for Luke to enlist his aid.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars Film I did not see on opening day. I was only twelve when Star Wars (now rechristened “A New Hope”) hit the theaters. I saw the original three times that day.

To say that I am a geek or a nerd or a “Star Wars” freak would be accurate. My wife isn’t—but she loves me. So when she offered to take me to see the latest Star Wars movie…it was out of love.

She ended up liking it very much…and I’d like to start my review there.

JJ Abrams made a Star Wars movie—trust me I’ve been waiting 32 years for another good one—but he also wove a tale that a non-Star Wars Fanatic (I’m the fanatic, by the way) could enjoy.

Is it Shawshank Redemption great? No. But it’s fun, exciting and will have you cheering from your seat just like the Star Wars films of old.

522837e62ad93697951d755d_2cb59597The “new comers,” (Daisy Ridley , John Boyega, Adam Driver) are brilliant and a welcome addition to the universe originally created by George Lucas. Original cast members Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford are amazing—Harrison especially brings his “A” game to The Force Awakens. I cannot speak about Mark Hamill’s Luke Skywalker without some spoilers (but it’s why he’s not on the poster nor in any of the trailers).

The script by Lawrence Kasdan, JJ Abrams and Michael Arndt is spot on and is a balance between “epic fantasy” and the pure fun that is Star Wars (“Oh, YOU’RE cold…”).

The bottom line is this. It’s a brilliant Star Wars picture. It’s not perfect, but none of them were. I’d put it up there with The Empire Strikes Back.

Peace.  Or should I say “May the Force be with you…”

Thinking Different

Enjoy-lifeOver the last few weeks I’ve really come to appreciate what’s really important. Before I got sick, I was dashing through life doing a job, running errands, taking care of animals, making sure the bills got paid, going to bed just to get up the next day to do it all again.

Now that I’ve been home for over a week from rehab, my priorities are very different. I do two sets of both my Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy (yes, I’m up to two sets now) daily. The Speech and Cognitive Therapist was here yesterday and we built a daily schedule to get my higher/executive decision-making functions back on track.

This includes at LEAST an hour a day working on my new as of yet untitled novel. Doctor’s orders—gotta do it!

But I also spend my day speaking to my family, enjoying being with my wife, reading and discussing the actual news, playing with our animals…

In short, working toward getting better and living life.

For my upcoming birthday post, I will be writing about 2016 and things I need to change to better enjoy my second chance at life.

But for now, I’m smiling a lot more…and for the first time in years, I’ve been getting up every morning saying—NOT “What do I need to get done today?”—but just “Today is going to be a great day.”

Feels pretty good.

Peace.

Cognitive Therapy

During my stint in rehab, the young lady in charge of my speech and cognitive therapy and I were chatting about ways to help me regain my focus, among other things, lost to the strokes. I started to talk about writing and my very real fear that I might not be able to tell stories anymore.

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I, of course, was fishing for sympathy. What I got instead was a very thoughtful look, then a smile.

“I think that’s a brilliant idea!” She said.  “You need to start writing again to get your brain back in gear. Let’s use your passion to help you heal.”

Not a SMIDGE of sympathy.

We discussed a plan.  I’d stay away from the behemoth that is my Arcana Chronicles series for the moment and work on a new standalone piece. My therapist left our session excited.

I was terrified.

I love writing.  But for the life of me, I had NO new ideas for a story….none. Where once there had been too many ideas floating around my little brain, now there was just this annoying buzzing sound.

Every  cognitive session there after, the question: “Have a story idea yet?” Came up. No, dammit.  Not yet. For ten days I’ve been trying to think of a story idea. Two days ago, I got one. It was like a switch was flipped from ‘off’ to ‘on.’ More ideas arrived.

It was glorious.

I posted the story blurb on Facebook a couple days ago.  Here it is for your comment:

“Jason Az lead a simple life. A well-paying job at the local insurance agency, Temple on Saturdays and brunch with his mother on Sundays. But when a series of medical mishaps result in multiple strokes and a coma, no one is sure whether or not Jason will survive. Just as all seems lost, Jason returns to the land of the living and is in perfect health to the astonishment of his doctors.

The problem is, he didn’t come back alone. “

Now all I have to do is write it. And come up with a title. 🙂

Peace

 

The Word Count Podcast Episode 52 – OPEN for SUBMISSIONS!

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DEADLINE EXTENDED!!

Some of you are aware what happened to me over the last month. I won’t rehash it here (if you are interested, I wrote a BLOG POST about my experience).

Let’s just say that The Word Count Podcast by all rights should have permanently and rather unexpectedly ended with episode 51.

But a couple minor miracles later, I’m alive and ready to open up Episode 52 for submissions.

The theme is simple. With the New Year on the horizon and the experiences I’ve had recently, I thought a story about “Second Chances” would be appropriate.

In the meantime, for those unfamiliar with the show…

The Word Count Podcast is truly one of my joys. I direct, produce, write and host the show—and also come up with the various themes our writers—The “Word Count Irregulars”—use to create unique and brilliant stories.

All for the listener and lovers of great storytelling.

There are no endorsements, no paid stories. It’s all done for the love of the written word. And downloads are always free. Always.

The only thing I ask is a little help via social media to point folks at the show.

To start listening go to either my Libsyn Page or to iTunes:

LIBSYN

iTUNES

There are Fifty one shows available right now!

THE WORD COUNT EPISODE 52 – “Second Chances

Submission Guidelines (PLEASE READ CAREFULLY)

GENRE: Any.

DEADLINE: I must receive your submission by MONDAY 4 January 2016 by MIDNIGHT Eastern time.   NOW THURSDAY 7 JANUARY!

THE DETAILS: The work must be an original story based on a theme of “Second Chances”

Do NOT exceed SEVEN minutes.

As this is a podcast, I need to receive a file of YOU, a friend or multiple friends reading (singing or otherwise performing) your work. MP3 FORMAT ONLY, and please attach your MP3 file to an e-mail or contact me for a Dropbox link.

Your submission MUST also contain the following:

  • Your pen name
  • Your latest bio
  • Links to your website(s) – Include your personal site, Facebook Fanpage etc.
  • Your Twitter handle (if you have one)
  • A photo of you I can use for the show notes
  • At the end of your recording, please add “This is <state your name> author of <state your work(s)> and you’re listening to The Word Count Podcast”
  • Permission to use your recording in the podcast.

Send your file to me@rbwood.com (or via the dropbox link I can provide) by 4 January 2016  7 January 2016. You can also e-mail me with questions beforehand. I do reserve the right NOT to post your submission, but will communicate that to you should it be the case. I add the ‘Explicit’ tag to the ‘cast, so if your story uses adult themes or language that’s ok—but it should be necessary for the story.

 

 

 

 

Adventures in Rehabilitation

Hello my friends!

IMG_0001I know I’ve been away for a month. A lot has happened…and some of you have bits and pieces of the story. So I thought I’d write up the facts of the last few weeks to bring everyone up to speed.

Let’s start with the good.

I’m home as of today. I’ll be recovering for a while longer, but I’ve been released from hospitals and rehab facilities and deemed healthy enough for home care so this is a very good thing.

So. What happened?

My Nemesis: The "Imperial Walker"
My Nemesis: The “Imperial Walker”

Six weeks ago, I developed a blood clot in my right leg (A DVT or “Deep Vein Thrombosis”). I was put on anti-coagulation meds…and then the bottom fell out. On Sunday, 15 November, I was running an errand for the cat shelter Tina volunteers at when I began to cough up blood. I called the wife, had an ambulance meet me at the house. I pulled into the driveway, put the truck in park and proceeded to fall out of the vehicle continually coughing up blood.

I remember being placed in the ambulance and pulling into Faulkner hospital—but nothing after. I have about four days missing from my memory that my wife helped piece back together.

I was intubated, while they worked on my bleeding lung, which had collapsed. The medical team discovered I’d developed anti-bodies to Heparin—the anticoagulation meds they injected me with. This resulted in clots blowing everywhere into my system impacting my lungs and resulting in over a dozen mini-strokes.

Apparently (I was unconscious at the time) I should have died. Twice.

Needless to say, I’m still here causing mayhem and mischief.

Once I woke up a week after being transferred to the main Brigham hospital complex in Boston, I found myself in intensive care with three main medical teams – Thoracic, Cardiovascular, and Neurology –working my case.

Hospital stays are bad. The experience was by far the most frightening and humiliating of my life. I was still in a bit of a fog, I couldn’t walk and my speech center had been effected. I was at a pretty low point—then my children and ex-wife arrived. Tina had called Valerie to let her know what had happened and my ex offered to bring the kids up for Thanksgiving. It was the sweetest thing—and became the pivot point putting me on the path to recovery.

I was moved from Brigham and Woman’s Hospital to a Rehabilitation center a couple weeks later. At this point, I could only walk with a walker, but my speech had improved. Once I was settled in the Spaulding West Roxbury Rehab center, I was immediately signed up for Physical therapy, occupational therapy and speech therapy.

I will say this about the team at Spaulding. They worked me incredibly hard. I went from constant pain and an inability to function by myself to being able to handle all normal day-to-day functions and walking unassisted.

I improved so fast that they cut me loose in 10 days. I was told that going from my original condition to being able to go home in the timeframe I’ve worked toward is nothing short of a minor miracle.

I think it’s all down to the remarkable doctors and therapists I had. I’m sure my stubbornness played a role—and wanting to get better not only for me, but for Tina and the kids played a major part in where I am today.

I still have pain in my leg—and I need to rest every 20 minutes or so. I’m still building back my cognitive abilities that are slowly returning to normal. We still have to figure out definitively what caused all the clots and resultant strokes, but I have a great team of doctors on the case.

Don’t get me wrong—I have a long ways to go until I’m back to being myself. I lost nearly 40 pounds in the past month—a lot of it muscle mass that will have to be built back up. I’m going to have to figure out how to pay the medical bills that are coming in…

IMG_0006But I’m alive. And I’m getting better each day.

So many of you sent me words of encouragement and prayers—I ‘m blessed to have marvelous friends and family who have been with me every step of this process. To my wife Tina who dealt with everything—including the possibility of losing her husband—I love you baby. Thank you for taking care of me. To Valerie and the kids—Your visit meant the world to me—thank you for making me laugh and celebrating Thanksgiving with me…and for smuggling in your mom’s most excellent Apple Crumble.

To my work colleagues who have been concerned and have done their best to balance concern with respect for my privacy—thank you for the cards and best wishes. I will be back…

With continued support and effort I WILL return to my normal self—sans a few bad habits. Just need to mitigate the clot situation once and for all and continue my therapies…

So that’s it, in a nutshell. You’ll hear more from me as time goes on.

Peace.