Nobody said life would be an easy experiment- at least that’s what I believe. It’s not an easy experiment.
I sometimes wonder- did we sit down with God or a panel of angels to communicate on our specific needs?
“Joe, you really need to learn to be more compassionate.”
“Okay. I suppose I do.”
“You need some humility…and I think we can arrange that.”
“Okay. Make it happen.”
And the list may have gone on and on. Then I’d hear, “Are you ready?”
“I guess I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.”
“You’ll do fine. Just remember to see the signs and listen to the quiet voice. Good luck!”
I believe this is how it may have gone for me.
And here I am at a certain point in my life. Many kismet circumstances are unfolding. Things happen for a reason- they really do! We may shake our fists at the heavens but, in the end, we understand it is for the best.
And I may live a dozen more lives before I get my lessons right.
I have been blessed. I have been very lucky. I recovered from Morgellons Disease eight years ago and have since tried to bring sensibility to the general public and assistance to those still suffering (my thoughts and research are found at: http://www.jwkeleher.com/, http://morgellonsjoe.blogspot.com/, https://smge.academia.edu/JosephKeleher, and https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Joseph_Keleher). It feels like a battle- one not easily fought.
Over the past couple of days, the tension between both sides of Morgellons Disease controversy has been rekindled. Why? Joni Mitchell’s hospitalization and her long-term battle with Morgellons Disease have fueled the ongoing debate- is Morgellons Disease real or just in the heads of those suffering? In thinking about writing on this topic, I decided the best approach might be a truce- a kind of safe meeting between the sides of this battle with the chance to consider a couple of pieces of this puzzle found on pubmed.gov.
In 2009, Morgellons Research Foundation published a clinical study meant to create a “…formal characterization of MD from detailed examination of all body systems” ( Harvey et. al. 2009). They created a lengthy list of common systemic symptoms, notably, “All blood pressures were low and all resting pulses were high,” suggesting this condition is physiologic, potentially easily diagnosed, and not created in the heads of self-defined sufferers. Among the study group were high rates of miscarriages and endocrine disorders. The study concludes, “…the consistent abnormal findings in the data above may be used to improve clinical diagnosis and possibly initial treatment in current patients.” In short, Morgellons Disease appears to be systemic and much more than the symptoms of fibers, crawling sensations and skin lesions.
The 2012 study performed by the Kaiser Foundation for the CDC (Pearson et. al. 2012) while concluding “No common underlying medical condition or infectious source was identified, similar to more commonly recognized conditions such as delusional infestation,“ suggests sufferers are dealing with a condition to be placed in mental illness . Some highlights include; “Over 75% of our cases reported onset of their symptoms during or after 2002, but the epidemiologic importance of this is unclear as it also corresponds to the time when Internet postings related to this condition began to surface” (suggests MD is internet meme), “A substantial proportion (40%) of biopsied lesions had histopathologic features compatible with the sequelae of chronic rubbing or excoriation” (suggests lesions are self-created), and “The fibers and materials collected from case-patients' skin were largely consistent with skin fragments or materials such as cotton and were either entrapped in purulent crust or scabs, suggesting the materials were from environmental sources (e.g., clothing) or possibly artifacts introduced at the time of specimen collection and processing” (suggests fibers are meaningless). Many of those in the Morgellons Disease community had hoped for light and found themselves in an even darker place.
Currently, a search of “Morgellons Disease” on pubmed.gov lists fifty articles (accessed 4/3/2015). Half of these peer-reviewed articles present Morgellons Disease as a delusional condition (the majority of these are found in dermatology related periodicals), seven discuss MD as real, and the remainder appear as inconclusive. I invite readers to further explore what appears to be opposite conclusions in peer-reviewed medical research.
My thoughts and prayers go out to Joni Mitchell and all of those still suffering.
Harvey, William T et al. “Morgellons Disease, Illuminating an Undefined Illness: A Case Series.” Journal of Medical Case Reports 3 (2009): 8243. PMC. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.
Pearson, Michele L. et al. “Clinical, Epidemiologic, Histopathologic and Molecular Features of an Unexplained Dermopathy.” Ed. Christophe Egles. PLoS ONE 7.1 (2012): e29908. PMC. Web. 3 Apr. 2015.
I’ll admit it. I have an addiction. I am a total junk-finding, thrift-store-hunting, yard-sale fanatic! It is not that I need anything. It isn’t even that I want anything. I love the process- the hunt for the unknown potential.
Yesterday, I had a dentist appointment. I decided the morning should be dedicated to finding some junk pieces I had in mind. I’ve been putting together a game room- with a ping pong table and dart board and the white walls look especially bare. So, I had in mind to try to find some old advertisement sign from the local junk yard- Belt Salvage.
As I was driving south of town, a yard sale sign beckoned me. I surveyed the sale and found an old bookshelf I thought was interesting. “Would you take ten dollars for it?,” I asked the lady in charge.
The dresser standing next to it wasn’t great, but it’d make one of my spare rooms more livable for a renter. “How about forty for the dresser and the book shelf?”
Once again I’d made a spontaneous purchase. And off I drove to Belt Salvage.
I parked in front of the riveted corrugated steel building and had, along with the old metal signs, two other treasures to find- I needed a wooden reel top for a table I’m creating and I wanted to see what kind of shelves they had in the heaps. I trekked off into the land of unending junk and found some of what I sought.
I went into the front office. "How can I help you?" asked the man behind the counter.
"I need a reel top and some shelves."
"Just take the reel top. I need to get rid of those. Let's go see the shelf you found." And off we went.
We navigated over the old school desk and rusted twisted metal to the shelf.
He lifted it with, “Steel. How about twenty dollars?”
“Sure,” I said. “I also was wondering about the mercantile sign you’ve got hanging on the fence. Is it for sale?”
“Yeah, I’ll sell that. How about thirty dollars?”
“So, fifty all together?”
“Yeah. I’ll get someone to help you load these.”
With the help of a young guy in work overalls, I loaded the self and reel top. I drove back over to the main building and hiked over to the old mercantile sign. The guy who’d helped me load up, helped me under the wiring holding the sign in place. Rusty and beat up, I thought the sign would be right at home in my basement.
I started loading the sign on top of my Blazer. A man in a white Ford pick-up was pilling in alongside of me. His wife sat quiet in the rider’s seat. “You know where that sign came from?” he asked.
“No. I have no idea.” I stated.
“Dove Creek. It used to be on the building where the bean company is now. That was Romer’s first business. He went on to become governor of the state.”
Wow! Who’d have thought I’d find a piece of Colorado history in a heap?
I’ve had one week with my new class of 4th grade students at Nizhoni Elementary School. I haven’t worked on the Navajo Reservation in about 5 years and decided this morning might be a good time to reflect on the pros and cons of working on the Navajo Nation.
My classroom is still somewhat in disarray. I have stacks of textbooks which may be used or not, certifications to hang, and general- getting my desk cleared- to make the setting effective and efficient. While I could take the blame for my own laziness, the long commute and locked gate on weekends makes getting everything spiffy a little challenging.
I have 30 students with a mix of less-typical names which are both traditional and creative in spelling. The kids are fairly respectful and good at following my lead. In all honesty, I feel like I have achieved more learning in one week than I did in an entire year in my off-reservation and severely dysfunctional teaching setting of last year (still I made some difference during the 13-14 year, which I need to focus on…along with forgiving). All in all, my students are a great group of kids!
My coworkers have been very helpful. I am especially thankful for my new supervisor; she is honest, focused and effective in running a school. I have been helped by a number of other teachers. Supplies and furniture has been given with an understanding we are all part of a team. I’ve only met a couple of parents, but they seem to be very supportive of the school’ efforts. So, this is all very good!
I do have to mention cons. You cannot work on a reservation without hearing about “Indian Time”; things happen at their own pace. While I mention this as a con (such as my trying to get classroom supplies which are needed immediately), it can also be of benefit. I certainly feel less stressed when I know I am not expected to always be under stress and in a rush (this works well for an introvert such as myself). The commute is also a challenge. So far it is going well, but I know in a couple of months it’ll feel old. I have a couple of coworkers to carpool with and this is good. Driving with good conversation makes the 45 minute ride go quickly. Comparing it my walking distance teaching position of last year, so far I am not carrying the stress of teaching (last year was far too stressful and resulted in my not sleeping well most of the year) and, at least so far, the district does not place absurd expectations of weekend and evening work unending (last year I was averaging 60+ hour weeks at the school).
I am certain there are a number of reason I’m drawn to working on the reservation setting. I’m happy to have my current job and look forward to an exceptional school year. Hey, I guess that’s all I have to say.
Happy trails, Joe
I’ve just finished a couple of days in the hot springs of the San Juan Mountains; the drive back gave me time to revisit a topic which has haunted me much of my life- why has so much of my life been spent alone? A massage and soaking in hot springs certainly relaxed me, but it also put me in a vacation setting where it seems everyone was part of a family, on an excursion with a friend or building the fire of a romantic relationship. Being alone in “paradise” makes me feel weird and wondering if others label me as odd.
I guess we’re all layered beings and I believe I now know my primary layers. My family of origin had its share of challenges- neglect being one and sibling competition another; I guess I think of this as layer one. I’ll label my introverted-ness layer two. Layer three is the issues of health- primarily toxicity all related manifestations. While I call these layers, it's more of a tossed salad with chunks of avocado and tomato floating to the top on occasion.
I've tried to deal with my layers. I went for counseling for one of my years in Pennsylvania (at $9 per session, it was affordable) and felt I’d been opened for operation, but been given no tools for closure- I guess cheap counseling doesn't always pay off. I've studied the research on being an introvert and have tried some approaches to better socializing. I am taking a functional medicine approach to balancing biochemistry and undoing toxicity; this has already helped tremendously.
Back to the topic of being alone. It may be I spent too much of my infancy and childhood alone; this may have left me with the need for physical touch, but the lack of feeling comfortable with it. As one who falls far towards the introvert side of the introvert/ extrovert scale, I certainly need some alone time to “recharge”. It may be I've fallen into a catch 22 of people thinking he spends his time alone therefore he likes being alone; our species is a social one and no one likes feeling always alone.
Solitude is very different from being alone; it suggests I have chosen isolation for my benefit. Going for a quiet walk in nature or stretching out in my hammock tends to quiet any monkeys bouncing around in my head. It brings balance.
When I think of all the time I've spent alone, it makes me wonder what I’m doing wrong and questions come to mind- do I make people uneasy? Am I difficult to deal with? Do I need to shower more? And exactly what is it about me that makes people think- He’s soooo weird!?
We’re all different and, yet, connected. I have empathy for everyone I meet; we’re all on challenging paths. Maybe I think too much of being the lonely loner and need to see myself as a social socialist (okay, that’s a little goofy)? Maybe I need to get a dog? Maybe I’ve a mail order bride in my future? Who knows?
Where’s my social scene right now? I’ve got a new housemate. Catherine and I decided to no longer date. A friend has recently stopped communicating with me. I’ve got a nurse and her pets moving into the basement at the beginning of August. I’m beginning to plan a story telling party to have before the school year begins. I guess, socially, I’m busier than some.
While I write in silence, my intent is to be heard by, at least, one other. Let me know a loner I am not.
From the moment you begin your journey to Walmart (hereafter referred to as The Labyrinth of Material) you must keep clear of your intent- Materialism is a labyrinth I am beyond.
This walking meditation begins once the glass doors open to The Labyrinth of Material. Go in through the out door and out through the in, in through the out door and out through the in (raspberry berets are optional), and continue into the labyrinth after your third entrance/ exit.
Breath in. Your senses are fully alert. Walk by the rows of shopping carts; you have no need of them. What do you smell? Can you hear the buzz of florescence overhead?
You are now fully on the path of the Labyrinth of Material. Appreciate the use of your senses throughout your challenge; to complete the labyrinth, you must navigate every aisle in the store- it may be best to walk the exterior before the interior or the interior before the exterior- you must decide. Think not of the time invested, but the lesson to learn.
Become aware of all the things you do not need; they are everywhere- chicken wings, Hanna Montana T-shirts, Preparation H, turkey calls, pillows and the list goes on and on. Each department will challenge you with a variety of sensations. If something "calls" to you, if it is "on sale" and your heart begins to quicken telling you "You need this", acknowledge the desire, but keep on your journey.
And what should you do if someone wishes to talk to you? Simply state,”I am in the labyrinth.”
You may lose your sense of time. Try to keep your step even and intentional. Focus and wander aisle after aisle after aisle. As you near the end, observe what others are purchasing without judgment.
As you exit the labyrinth, turn to the cider block structure containing it and say “Thank you. I do not need your materials.” Bow and walk away.
Note: This is the first of a possible series of present day meditations.
Sometimes a sauna is just meant to happen.
I remember the first time I'd encountered a sauna. I was seventeen. I worked for the summer with the Youth Conservation Corp maintaining trails in the Adirondack Mountains. Our work schedule demanded us to go out into a wilderness setting every other week. When we weren’t out living in our tent city, we’d stay in dorms at Star Lake Campus. The campus itself was made up of a number of buildings- dorms, mess hall, community hall, and, of course, a sauna house. The appeal of the sauna wasn’t exactly health related at this time in my life (in fact, I think it was all about hanging out half naked with a bunch of other teens…maybe proving I was tough enough to “stand the heat”). So, loving saunas from my introduction makes sense.
Some years later, my brother Mark came to visit me in Colorado. He spent his last birthday on this planet hanging out with me (he had cancer and wouldn’t make it to his twenty- fifth). I’d arranged for us to go to a Native American sweat in the neighboring town of Mancos. More of a religious experience than a sauna, Mark told me afterwards, “My pain went away.” I’ve been to many Native sweat since, some very traditional and some not so, but this was the most meaningful (you’re missed, Mark).
My encounter with Morgellons Disease in my early forties turned me into a detox nut (and who wouldn’t be after going through such a horrific set of symptoms!). I purchased a two-man infrared sauna for my home in Wellsboro, PA. I spent many nights sweating in this box and, when I moved, sold it to a man trying to recover from cancer.
When I started to house hunt in Cortez, I keep in mind my desire to have a sauna. Maybe even build one. I didn’t exactly know how it’d play out, but I kept it in mind. Buying my fixer-upper on Beech Street lead me to finding a house mate who had building experience, which eventually lead Tony to finding the room hidden under the front steps of the house (okay, this last sentence is an extremely condensed version of how this all played out…but it’d take way too long to tell the whole story. Forgive me.)
The room under the steps is about four feet by eight feet. It seemed destined to become a sauna. I found a sauna heater and cedar door for sale online and drove to Ridgeway, CO to retrieve these last weekend. Tony jack-hammered out a doorway from the basement into the mystery room this past week. Today, I bucketed out all of the rubble from the entryway creation. It's a lot of work!
The sauna may not be finished for some time. I step in through the doorway and picture a light and heater in place. Will there be room for three or four? I’m not certain how it will play out. So much sweat has gone into the project so far- how could I not title this Sweat Equity?
I’ve had another long week of “teaching” (quotation marks are meant to accentuate the idea of what I am trying to do; the reality is quite different). I did accomplish something I feel is big- I presented a professional development related to “Creating an Introvert Friendly School” at my current school of employment. It went well!
What did I share? I tried to hit the very largest pieces of the problems associated with introversion, social trends, and learning. Being an introvert is not the same as being shy. Introverts get brain chemistry balanced by internal stimulus and extroverts rely on external stimulus. Introverts need to “recharge” regularly. Constant group work needs to be rethought. Introverts need to be considered as much as extroverts. Schools are primarily designed for extroverts.
It is interesting who from the teaching staff asked me for copies of my paper titled “Creating an Introvert Friendly School”. It is also interesting to see how some of the more extroverted staff reacted to my time with them. I’m not out to start a fight with the extrovert crowd (who is?!), I hope to open a discussion.
The district I currently am working for has many Native American students and introvert students may make up more than half of the student body. I am especially concerned with our societies distorted views towards male introverts (it has never been easy for me!) Taking into account the many pieces of each individual student should help in designing an appropriate approach to learning.
Schools may be the best place to start dialog on the needs of introverts. I hope to be a part of the change needed to serve this large portion of our population. If you’re interested in finding out more, take a look at the links below. Quietly yours, Joe
You might say the visit started several months ago.
Cindy walked along Beech Street tangled by the leashes of three lap dogs and her own thoughts. She stopped along my driveway. “Hey, neighbor, how would you feel about hosting my book club? I told them about your book.” Anyhow, that’s how I remember it starting.
Fast forward to the night of January 21st- the night THEE Book Club would visit. I’d had a long day of “teaching” at my current job. My housemate, Tony, had started a roaring fire in the wood stove and I decided I should run off and get some flowers from City Market to make the ladies feel at home (the Club is made up entirely of well-educated and lively women). By the time I’d gotten back, Cindy had already arrived and settled into the kitchen. “You told me I could come early,” she said.
As Beul Nam Beinn takes place in historic Scotland, the food theme for the night was Scottish (minus the Haggis!) Plentiful and tasty, the food, ale and wines digested well as be began to talk about my book. Since we were sitting in a circle near the fire, I thought I’d like to see what the women got out of the story. “I’d like to hear what you think the story was about,” I proposed.
There is little more worthwhile for a writer than to hear the impact on the reader. The answers were varied and insightful. In all honesty, you get out of a story what you get out of a story, but my intent best fit Cathie’s response of, “Self-discovery…” It was a joy to have the company of these ladies and to get their feedback on my efforts! (Thanks, ladies!) I also passed a composition book to “Build ideas for a sequel”.
The next day my two bachelor housemates and I reflected on the evening before. “That was fun!” said I. “Great food!” said Jon. “Did you know one of the ladies brought toilet paper?” asked Tony. We laughed.
I had a dream-an idea- a concept- a desire. I decided, after watching the jaw-dropping surf action on Step Into Liquid, I must get an official surf lesson before I turned fifty. And the dream almost happened; I missed it by a day.
Here’s how it unfolded. I decided I needed to plan something to look forward to during Christmas break. So, I bought a ticket to fly from Cortez to San Diego and back. My flight left Cortez in the morning light causing luminous rays like brush-strokes from a fine painting across the face of Mesa Verde. Over the snow-capped La Plata and others of the Rockies, then a twisted dive down to the Denver airport- the first leg of the trip.
All airports appear the same to me (except Cortez's which has a friendly cat and the smallest runway ever). I’d paid to have my backpack checked and found myself feeling oddly light-footed as I bounced around Denver Airport. I noted the roofline shaped like a line of irregular teepees out one of the windows as I wandered through the terminal. I hadn’t eaten breakfast and, as it was nearly noon, I decided to treat myself to a Philly cheese steak and an ice cream cone.
My final flight into San Diego was smooth and eventless. I’d decided to find the bus to the hostel after retrieving my pack. Driving beyond the hyper-activity of the airport, we soon were contouring the edge of the main bay. We made a 90 degree turn and headed uphill slightly. I counted the cross-roads until we arrived at Front Street.
The hostel I lodged at was only six blocks up the way. I passed by some fellow hostellers who smoked on plastic lawn chairs in front of the old Victorian. It was late day of December twenty-second. My birthday would arrive the next day.
“Hello. Can I help you,” asked the girl with a thick accent I couldn’t place. She leaned over the check-in counter.
“Yeah. I’ve got a reservation for a bed,” I said.
Keleher. Joe Keleher.”
“Yeah. We’ve got you down for a couple of nights,” she said as noted the reflection of the computer screen in her glasses as she scanned it.
“That’s right,” I leaned over the counter. “Umm… I wanted to ask about getting a surf lesson. I’m turning fifty tomorrow and would like to give it a try.”
She smiled. “I’ll ask Thiago. He’s the guy who just walked by on his way to the shower. I’ll let you know.”
The Next morning Thiago, a high energy Brazilian who started surfing when he was eight, fit me with a wetsuit and surf board. Two South African lasses joined us as we all wandered down the street to catch the trolley and transferred to a bus to get to Pacific Beach.
Vicky led us in early morning yoga, before we donned our wetsuits and hit the waves. It was a gorgeous day with waves of three to four feet and only a few other dozens of beach occupants.
Thiago gave a short and heart-felt lesson. He prepared me for the waves, getting beyond them and the actions I needed to ride one. “Ready?” he asked.
“Yeah, let’s do it,” I responded.
The four of us fought to get out beyond the waves. Soon I found I’d drank my share of salt water and found my upper body muscles twitching from exertion.
Thiago came along side of me. “Okay. Turn your board.” I followed his directions. “Now…get up on it and paddle, paddle, paddle!”
It was the one wave I can actually claim to have ridden. I rode on my knees and soon found myself nearing shore. I let Thiago know I was exhausted. “Rest up and then you can come out again,” he suggested.
I stretched out on my board and read from Girl With the Pearl Earring. After several chapters, the others came in from the waters. Thiago and I went for a long walk and talk along the beach followed by the four of us going for a late lunch at a beachside restaurant which specialized in fish tacos.
It was one of those days. One I won’t forget. Salty ocean breeze twirled with the distant sound of waves breaking. I’ve surfed through fifty and look forward to fifty-five more!
* "You can’t stop the waves but you can learn how to surf! Life is good!"
*Quote from t-shirt I got bought before leaving San Diego