Saturday, September 24, 2016

The Innocuous Stretch that changed my Life

I didn't think that I was going to talk about my injury, but Jayne's post caused me to decide otherwise. I know I have mentioned this injury in the past, but these are different times with different readers, and I will likely write about it differently as well.

I was struck with how Jayne's injury stemmed from a seemingly non-threatening situation, and I realized that such was my case, which presently haunts my later life.

Almost exactly 30 years ago except for a few months, it was the first day of summer vacation. I played a few sets of pretty competitive tennis and was feeling good about my game and looking forward to a summer with much good exercise on the court.

That evening, I took my youngest to her softball game and was warming her up before the game. We tossed a few back and forth. She threw one that I had to reach up and to my right for. I stretched up and felt a pop in my ankle. I actually felt like I heard it too, but who knows whether that is possible.

I don't know why it happened. Was there a bit of a depression which I caught just right (or wrong)? I don't really know, but I knew it was bad straight away, and the immediate swelling provided plenty of confirmation. So I made arrangements for a neighbour to take my daughter home after the game, hobbled to the car, and basically drove with my wrong foot. I got into the driveway, leaned on the horn, and asked Sue to take me to the hospital once she came outside to see what was going on.

These were the days before triage, and I sat in the waiting room quite awhile without being attended to: no ice or elevation. It irks me now to think about such lack of treatment, but that was then.

Eventually they bandaged me up and sent me home with a cane and a prescription for Tylenol 3s. I don't know how many of those pills I took that night, but it was way more than my limit, and they didn't help at all, or at least it didn't feel like they did. I was in agony,

Basically, I spent most of that summer in my recliner where I read a lot of Ludlum. Eventually I had physio and began to get back on my feet, just about in time for school to recommence two months later. Physio had been delayed because my foot had reacted to the bandages and given me a huge blister type of bubble on the inset. It was ridiculously huge.

Back to school I went without a cane and managed to play tennis again the next summer, but it was mostly less demanding doubles and not energetic singles. I remember reprogramming myself to begin my runs with my left foot and not my right, but I managed.

But the injury changed the way that my foot fell when I stepped, and 20 years after the injury, my ankle started to bother me.

Eventually, CT scans revealed the total disappearance on one tendon plus bone chips. I could have opted for fusion surgery but results couldn't be assured. Not only that, but I wouldn't have been able to put weight on it for 6 months. With, the rest of my body and especially the left knee is not up to me hopping around for 6 months, I decided not to forego the operation.

And so, I live with a limp or at least an odd gait and feel the pain in my ankle with every step. While I don't want to overstate the pain, it does exist. I still sometimes contemplate having that operation although I still don't have a clue about how I would manage that long recovery.

So, I kind of hobble about on my slow but  almost daily walks, but I do keep at it regardless. I call it hobbling, but I trust that it isn't too noticeable. In other words, I don't think I exactly look severely injured.

That seemingly innocent action of stretching for the ball first caused a summer of inactivity and rehabilitation followed by unremitting lifetime consequences although I did have two decades where my ankle was relatively good. I guess that is something to be thankful for. But don't ask me to be overly appreciative. Okay?

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The Fence by Townhall

A Thursday Fence for you. The fence is across the bridge from where I am shooting, adjacent to our townhall. (No spellchecker, I like townhall as one word.)






Monday, September 19, 2016

Tinged With Maybe Just A Touch of Regret

On my little strolls, I begin to notice tinges of colour. These photos are from one walk. Soon enough autumn will be in full gallop. We are probably only two weeks form the beginning of significant colour and three or four weeks until the peak and the subsequent diminishment.

But before we get to the tinges ...


... above and below are two snaps showing how low our water is running as a result of our droughtish conditions.

Above: you can pretty much see the more usual waterline in the boulders.

Below: you see much rock in this photo, but almost none of it is visible in a normal year.


Now for the tinges of colour but also the tinges of regret. There is anticipation of the autumn colours, but tinges of regret for the passing of summer and the coming of a very long winter. No further comment needed.






Sunday, September 18, 2016

First Day of School

After my birthday retrospective, it's time for a look at the first day of school. Better late than never, right? Right?

I am posting many more photos than usual, for the record; it makes a convenient place to look back on in future years.

We begin with solo snaps.



Then, everybody had to get into the act.

Shauna




Sue




Some other person






Off to the bus stop


JJ was a little apprehensive


All aboard




Day is done




Saturday, September 17, 2016

Birthday Retrospective

Somehow, I overlooked posting my birthday pics from two weeks past. Call it hubris if you like, but I would like to observe the day(s) now.

The day began with me getting a new winter plaid shirt from Sue which Danica helped pick out. Did I say "helped?" I mean insisted according to all reports.


In the photo we are at Dionysos for breakfast. This Greek restaurant is named after a deity who was born of a liaison between a god, Zeus, and a mortal woman. After being killed as a child Dionysus was reborn to another woman. Anyway, we like breakfast there; they do their hash browns in a way that I would like to emulate, but I am too dumb.

The next day, by my request, we headed to the chip truck where I indulged in poutine  for the first time in 11 years. It's a concoction of fires, gravy and cheese curds. The dish came out of neighbouring Quebec, but I have even seen a poster from Minnesota showing a food stall featuring poutine at a fair. I know it looks like a killer, which is why I went a decade between noms, but I did satisfy myself with the small plate, so I deserve some credit.


The weekend also included a trip to the Hummingbird Chocolate factory. It's small plant in neighbouring Almonte in a little industrial park. It recently won a global prize award award, so we had to try it out.


Here I am holding the prize-winning golden bean.


The bar was good enough, I suppose, but give me a Mars bar or a Caramilk any day: a Canadian bar which may be sold as Caramello in the USA, but ti may also be a bit different.


Back to Hummingird, here is the bar that we chose.


There were other noms, like a fine pizza from Mr Mozzarella, and fajitas and cake at Shauna's for birthday supper.

After all of that food, I guess it's good that I got a Misfit exercise tracking watch as a gift. It has spurred me to do a little more walking, which is supposed to be good for the body and soul if not the foot and sole.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Minor Job Shifting

I have been asked how my work/career may have shape-shifted over time. The answer is that it didn't shift or at least didn't shift much in the sense that I was always a secondary school teacher. However, the place and subject did shift about.

I taught secondary school for 30 years, and while I changed schools a few times, it was always between the same 2 schools. I was at school A for 10 years, school B for 6, A for 1, B for 6, and finally A for 7. There were other secondary schools in the system, 6 others at the height of enrollment in the early 70s, but I was always between those two, school A being a somewhat affluent suburban school and school B being a country school. All but the first shift were strictly my choice.

Back in university, I had majored in geography and took enough English courses, so that I would have a teachable minor, which was required, or so I thought. I specialized in geography mainly because I found it enjoyable and could also do it well. I could always pull off better marks in geography than English or even other subjects.

When I went to teachers college, the English prof  who interviewed me, advised me to switch my second teachable to Elementary rather than English because I had only taken the bare minimum of English courses. As it turned out, I should have stuck with English, for in my 11th year of teaching, I was transferred to not only a different school in a different environment but also asked to teach some English. After that from years 2 through 6 at that school, I almost exclusively taught in the English department.

Amazingly, I loved it. Something about my personality seemed to do even better in an English class than in geography. I think it was because there was more discussion of ideas and not so much disseminating of information. I was a pretty good listener and liked to hear the students' opinions, and they seemed to like my way of encouraging them share.

I taught English to grades 9 through 11, but despite my enjoyment, I always had the suspicion that I was a fraud because my background in the subject wasn't as strong as it could have been. This is despite being spoken of highly by students, department heads, principals and supervisors. In fact I got more positive feedback in those years than in my geographical years. Go figure.

Without fussing over the details, I ended up back in geography for my last 14 years, 12 of those as a department head. But in retrospect, my favourite years were the English years and I certainly had never seen that coming. That was my personal career shape-shifting although not as dramatic as many people experience.

If I had seen back then what I see now I would likely have made any or all of the following choices:

  1. taken a few more English course in Uni;
  2. insisted on taking English as a second subject at teachers college;
  3. and/or chosen to continue teaching English rather than switching back to geography in the last half of my career.
Or at least I think I should have made those choices, but it is what it is. I had a good 30 years on the job after all, but the best were those 6 years as a English teacher.





Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mommy I Can't Do Art

Danica has entered grade 4. It brings to mind myself in grade 4: the year when I learned, much to my chagrin, that I couldn't art.

So, let's back it up and unpack it a little (unpack being a newish expression that is probably being overused and will soon fade).

I don't often listen to the radio in the car, or anywhere else for that matter, but Danica does, and she had had me tune the radio to her music station. Later, instead of turning it off as is my habit, I flipped it over to CBC and became totally absorbed by this program about Aphantasia, which you can also hear if you click this link. The program is about 20 minutes in length.

So, what is this thing, this Aphantasia? And why did the program grab my interest so? And what the heck does it have to do with me and art in grade 4?

OK, time to back up some more and do some more unpacking.

Back in grade 4 art class, I became frustrated with the fact that I couldn't actually art. When the teacher said, "Let's draw this," or "Bring some soap to class so we can sculpt it," my results were pathetic. I didn't even want to art anymore. I complained to my mother who even mentioned it to the teacher on parents night, but she had no solution, so I kept on having to participate in the damnable class. In my own way.

My problem was that I couldn't draw from my imagination because there was something missing in my head although I didn't really know that for a long time. Oddly enough, however, there were times when I could draw, like that time in woodworking class in grade 7. We were instructed to carve out a ring toss toy. I didn't know what to do until I realized that I had a Mighty Mouse comic book with a picture on the cover. He had his arm extended upward, and I figured that would make a decent landing for a ring toss toy.

So, I got out the comic book and drew it. Yes, I did, and it was reasonable copy or at least good enough. It was one project that worked. How come?

I will get back to this, but for now, let us fast forward to the present.

It has taken me much of my life to realize that I don't have the same pictures in my head that others do. For example: when I take my afternoon siesta and see a strange face and want to examine it, I can't capture it. When I try to freeze the image and have a good look, I can't manage. It fades away.

Going back to Mighty Mouse, I was able to draw a facsimile relatively well because I could keep looking at the original which wouldn't fade away. But mention something to me, like a mountain scene with a babbling brook, and I will see a flash of something vague, but even the vagueness will soon fade.

When this program, Quirks and Quarks, came on the radio, I was hooked. I had caught it in progress with an interview with a fellow who was worse off than I, for he had no pictures — at all, ever! He was bright and successful but had no images in his head. I have dream images, and I have images when I read. They fade right away when I try to hold onto them, but I have them initially. That gentleman didn't have any images, period.

I learned that the condition is called Aphantasia. It seems like it would be a crippling handicap, but this man lives a successful and productive life. He even reads fiction and learned that one author that he reads, his friend, Michelle Sagara, also has this condition. Yes, she also has Aphantasia but is still able to write descriptive passages.

Certain famous people have identified themselves as having this condition: neurologist and naturalist, Oliver Sacks, for example; and Blake Ross (developer of the Firefox browser); and Craig Venter (known for being one of the first to sequence the human genome).

Dr Adam Zeman of Exeter University has identified two types or degrees of Aphantasia. There are those like the interviewee, John, who have no images at all: no mind's eye as it were. This, he terms as Involuntary Aphantasia. Many others can dream visually or experience images when they read; they/we experience Voluntary Aphantasia where they/we do experience images but can't summon images at will.

Obviously, this is a condition that affects a minority of people, especially those who experience Voluntary Aphantasia, but Dr Zeman has 10 000 subjects available for his studies, and I wonder how many more, like me, haven't been formally identified. I did read elsewhere that some degree of the condition may affect 1/50 people.

I have been saying that I have this condition although I can't officially verify if I qualify clinically, but the test at this website confirms to me at least, that I do. In fact, I can't force myself to finish it because it frustrates me, and I give up very quickly.
  • Conjure up an image of a familiar friend or relative. How clearly can you see the contours of their face, head, shoulders and body?
  • Still imagining that friend or relative, how strongly can you see the characteristic poses of their head and body?
  • How well can you envision the way that friend or relative walks, the length of their step, for example?
  • How vivid are the colors of that person's clothes in your mind?
  • Visualize a rising sun and look carefully at the details of that mental picture. How clearly do you see that sun rising above the horizon in a hazy sky?
  • Imagine the sky clearing and surrounding the sun with blueness, how vivid is that image?
  • Clouds appear in your sky and a lightning storm erupts. How well can you see it?
  • A rainbow appears in your sky. How clearly can you make it out?
It has taken me much of my life to figure out that I don't have the same imaging powers as most other people. I can remember my friend, Ron, drawing a cartoonish rabbit character out of his head for my daughter and me marvelling that he could do it, but life goes on and I didn't think about it much until recent years. Now I find that it is a recognizable condition and that I am in good company. Somehow, it helps to know that there's a name for it and that I am not unique or alone.

In short, I am Aphantastic kinda guy.