Sunday, February 18, 2018

Brain Stimulation is Important

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Today the conversation came up twice.  "How did you keep going when you were so sick?" My answer is always the same. I just kept functioning.  I didn't want for yesterday, I lived in the present.  What can I do today?  That was, and still is, my daily morning question.  Sometimes, it's walk the dog, sometimes, it's read a book, or listen to French tapes.  I get dressed everyday, style my hair, put on makeup and a smile and "function."  

The definition of function: "an activity or purpose natural to or intended for a person or thing."

Well what was natural one day was not the same the next, so I functioned for "that" day.  It would sometimes take me all day to pull together an evening meal. For me, that was the easy chore.  Getting dress was sometimes breath-taking. It took tactical planning to succeed, but each day I planned my successes.  I still do.  

Here's an excerpt of a day in 2004.  
Brain Stimulation
In spite of feeling weak and short of breath 24/7, I picked up more hobbies. I sewed more, did crafts, decorated the house, and prayed a lot.  For one, I prayed that my hair would stop falling out. I could take feeling sick, but the loss of hair reminded me daily I was sick.  It was an announcement to the world, "Hey look at the sick woman over there!"  

One day I was at a Dillards with mother.  I hate shopping but anything to get me out of the house. I believe it was Mother’s take-back day.  She and her friends would go shopping. Come back with a bag full of items that they had tried on in the store.  They would wait until the next day, and try on their new garments. Then they declared the items ugly, and unfitting, or unbecoming, or wrong color, and they would take back 80% of whatever they bought.  I’m just guessing here, but it does seem that they returned eight out of ten of their newly purchased clearance items. 

This particular day was one that confirmed that people saw me as sick. It was about 2004.  I was forty-four years old and it was getting more difficult to hide my thinning hair.  But it wasn’t the hair that caught this woman’s attention.  She asked, “when are you due?” as she stared at my distended belly.  I weighed no more than 132lbs; well within my BMI but I suffered from ascites. Some days were worse than others. I tried to dress accordingly. On bad days, I'd hide it behind large flowing tops.  But some days it was not possible to hide the protruding ball that was my abdomen.  I usually stayed home and worked on the family genealogy, when I knew I was not fit to go out in public.  The days I would only feel safe within the confines of my house. Surprisingly,  the student’s at the Community College, where I taught part time, never mentioned it, but I often taught sitting on a desk. I would arrive early, position myself on top of the front desk next within arm reach of the projector.  They knew I had breathing issues, everyone knew I had breathing issues.  But the students were unexpectedly kind and tolerate. Plus, I was the exercise and game queen. Is there a better way to teach Spanish?

When I did leave the house, barring work,  it was to go to the National Archives - KC. I’d also take genealogy classes locally.  My theory was, I can feel bad sitting in someone else's chair as well as my own." I had added genealogy to my hobby list in 2000 and was pretty knowledgeable of the local repositories and resources.  I found my “free-colored” family in a 1860 census at the National Archives - KC. I was visiting the Kansas City Bannister branch of the National Archives. This was an unexpected discovery since only free persons were listed in that Federal census. But my grandfather Cecil always claimed his grandfather was born free. This research consumed me. I lost my troubles in the stacks of the genealogy library, the National Archives, and the State Historical Societies (Missouri and Kansas). My worries did not surface while rolling microfilm and digging in newspaper collections. Mother would sometimes join me.  In spite of her being an archival researcher, she was very distracting, but loved the research.  We would talk about my findings all the way to our little church in Ringwood, OK and back.  This was my passion. And it helped make the six hour one way trip to serve the Lord tolerable.

By 2002 I was teaching days at the community college. I was still an adjunct, and taught ten credit hours. I was making a name for myself as being strict, but my students were learning and they didn’t dare show up without their homework. That allowed for more classroom games, more speaking Spanish, more cultural experiences.  I was getting more involved in the school, and proposed two new classes.  The emphasis was on writing intensive courses, and again my thought was “I can do this.”  I didn’t expect the administration to take a visibly weakened adjunct teacher seriously when I proposed two Writing Intensive courses: Latin American Humanities, and Latin American Literature.  But the proposals were accepted and implemented. These classes were always filled and I was honored to share my master degree studies.  Plus, when my health worsened, and online courses became popular, these writing courses easily transitioned to my home office.

Teaching was not my passion.  But I was functioning. Slow, methodical, short of breath... but functioning.

Kathleen Brandt, Keynote Speaker
"Health is Wealth"

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