Friday, December 23, 2016

We Can Overcome the Challenges of the Holidays, and Laugh and Love Especially. Enjoy!


Highlighted, favorite blogpost in the the knack of time:

We Can Overcome the Challenges of the Holidays, and Laugh and Love Especially. Enjoy!

The holidays! We have to handle the challenges of short days, of having relatives and friends either in our faces, or being unavailable. We may feel the pressure of fixing presents, fancy meals, and end up exhausted. ... read more

By Michael Peter Langevin





Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Winter Solstice - and a Small Sun Pot


Happy Winter Solstice! May it be sweet and easy. We transform as the year is transforming. We change as the year is changing.

There is always ceremony, always small things we can do to help the unfolding of new chapters. Around Winter Solstice I draw year runes, make collages, choose colors to brighten up the incoming year. Through Winter Solstices over the years I have trampled spirals in the snow, hung year-amulets in trees, done ceremony by myself, with a friend or a group, lit fires, torches and candles. Whatever feels right in the moment is the right thing to do.

Whatever my ceremony for the year, I always want to do something extra for the Sun: sunbread, sun symbols, small, glittery things hanging in windows - catching the light. This year I also did a Sun-pot. 

Such a sweet thing to be inspired by the big powers, and do small, simple creations. As you can see - you hardly have to be an artist to do so. All it takes is some acrylic paint, some gold ornaments from the free-shelf, and a certain freeing lack of self-critisism. Here is this year's Winter Solstice special Sun symbol: old pot to a new pot, from a-little-worn-pot to a bright symbol of the new Sun.


May She Come Back Safely to All of Us





Photographs by Sofia Karin Axelsson

Sunday, December 18, 2016


of Tyr: Sky god. Wolf. Spiritual warrior. Courage. Stand your truth.
Sacrifice that which seems so important, and find a new stance.


Illustration by Sofia Karin Axelsson

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Rune of Water, Rune of Lake

Rune of water, rune of lake

dribbling, trickling, drip-drop-drake 

Ebb and flow

 Vast ocean
high and low











Riches deep below



Ran - fearsome, cruel
Sensual queen of blue


Underwater circus, subconscious themes, 

ebb and flow, ebb and flow

Slow rythmic patterns
I surrender, drag me under
let me twirl 
and twirl
and twirl

together with the Naiades.



Illustration and photograph two and three by Sofia Karin Axelsson

Monday, November 28, 2016

Sunna - A Prayer to the Sun Goddess

As the days grow shorter - we can pray to Sunna, to Sol, the SunGoddess of the cold North. She knows well how every ray is worth it's weight in gold. Fire hair flowing, as she drives her sunchariot over the sky - day after day.



Be at ease. The wolves may chase her, but she wins the race. Every day takes skill and effort. Every day is precious. 

It is said that the skywolves will catch up with her one day, and eat the sun so there is no more day. But that Sunna has given birth to a daughter - shining bright and new - who will light up the world once again.

Perhaps this happens every year. Surely Sunna, or Sunna her daughter will return after the darkest day.


Give a prayer in any case. Because thankfulness to any force is never lost. Our hearts expand, and we shine brighter, when we remember that many fight hard to keep the universe moving in endless balance -in whatever form we wish to perceive them. Just as Sunna steers her chariot over the sky - day after day.

Photoart by Sofia Karin Axelsson

Friday, November 25, 2016

Post-Election Perspective - We All Need It. An Interview with Frank DeMarco


"Post-Election Perspective," is an interview with author Frank DeMarco starting off in his latest book: "Rita's World Volume II: A View from the Non-Physical." 

How do the reactions to the 2016 election in the USA look from beings from the other side? Can a non-physical perspective give us in the physical form a better perspective on the election outcome, and the way the world looks to us at this point? Frank DeMarco explains these connections between the physical and the non-physical world, starting off in his book "Rita's World Volume II: A View from the Non-Physical."

"Rita's World Volume II: A View from the Non-Physical," continues the conversation between friends in two worlds: Rita Warren, now in the non-physical world, Frank DeMarco, still in the body. 

The interview is conducted by Michael Peter Langevin.

Enjoy!


The video is created by Sofia Karin Axelsson.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Odin - God of Wisdom

Wisdom, such a funny thing. Easy to chop up pieces, and put under glass cages, to be admired - between collegues - in dusty museums.

"Wisdom is what works," says Pinkola Clarissa Est├ęs.
A wise lady indeed.

"Wisdom is what works," I say, "and then take us further."

I don't want to be an image of a god, made out of petrified wood, placed on an elevated throne. I want to move, I want to roam, to explore, to find new homes.

I don't want to be a carrier of stale, old tales. Only if you make the tales alive, will I borrow you my strength.

Let words fly high. Don't use them to drag you down to the dry and crusty ground.

Curiosity is all. Don't hold me back, don't hold me still.

I move towards the corners of the worlds, that still expands, that still thrills.

One-eyed I am, and the metaphor is this: if you don't sacrafice your old sight - you see very little.


Photograph: "Odin's Eye," by Sofia Karin Axelsson.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Freja - the Force from Within



No holding back - when Freja captures your soul, and flares you open from within. It's all pain from now on.

War Goddess. Protect what you love. No one can care for your innermost passions but you.

Love Goddess. Love what you protect. And when the right person comes along - you don't have to hold on anymore. To share what you love - enriches all.


Goddess of magic. Sorceress. All - knower. From the roots of the world tree, she draws the life force. To hold life force in body, is great magic indeed. Directing it - changes everything.


Goddess of life and death. At the edge of the void, only life carries us on. We cut, we blaze, we bleed, we die. Through it all she's walking close - close to you and me.

Closest of gods. Lover of humans. Inviting us to get warm by the seidr fire. Melting our frozen doubts. Catching the drops in her motherly hands. Burning our hearts - until we take our stand.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Trusting Guidance - with Frank DeMarco


There is much confusion in the world today. Perhaps right now - after election, with unexpected results that many people still haven't digested - we need to remember to trust our guidance. The Echo World's very own Frank DeMarco have hands on tips about how to listen and discern among those voices "in our head." The interview is conducted by Michael Peter Langevin. Listen and enjoy.


The video is created by Sofia Karin Axelsson.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The Runes Are Dancing


The runes are dancing.


Vibrating.

Waiting to be yours.

For you to step into them. For them to be embraced by you.

They don't care if you can pronounce them correctly in Old Icelandi, while hanging up side down in an old ash tree. They don't care if you read every verse of the stories once told by the night fires burning.

They care only of this:

That you know how to carry them inside of you. That you know how to feel them - how to be them.



To be them. Then your theirs. Then they are yours.

Most powerful, ancient signs. As are all signs. As are all letters. As are all languages.

Every sign drawn, every letter written, every word spoken, every sentence woven - shoots out roots and arrows, shoots out threads of good or ill.

Watch every word you write and speak. Play with the runes if you will. They teach respect for the expressed - for spoken and unspoken words just the same.

Loving, breathing, pulsating building blocks of worlds. 

The runes are dancing - always dancing. Dance with them if you wish.
Illustrations Sofia Karin Axelsson


Monday, November 7, 2016

Towards a New Form of Leadership


Article published in Edge Magazine - "Towards a New Form of Leadership."

"Leadership has become a slightly suspicious term over the years. From an elegant term full of responsibility and capability, many people today associate leadership with misuse of power and corruption. The more anarchistically inclined may have come to the conclusion that the time for leaders is gone, that we are now all our own leaders, and we don’t need any guidance in any area, be it political, social, moral or spiritual." ... more

Thanks to Edge Magazine for publishing me. Always a joy.




Sunday, November 6, 2016

Skadi - Goddess of the Oldest Magic


Frost. She comes from the mountains, with the scent of snow yet
not fallen embracing her. Embracing us - no more summer
bouncing growth. It's time to take aim. Bow and arrows on her back. Visions in her eyes: visons of witches, visions of women, visions of brave men of the new world. She takes us for long walks. Urges us on to take long strides.

Goddess of crescent moon, sharp and tangible. Easy to cut your fingers on. Bleed if you need to.

Find your prey and stalk it silently. Patience overflows. In silence we find what has been untold. That she's of giantess race. That she comes with the oldest magic.

Bright white and shadowy gray. Skadi means shadow. She makes us walk with them: our untold stories, our forgotten selves. Let them walk side by side. Harming none, now that they are seen, From them we weave stronger dreams, the rest we throw in the stream.

With summer gone, she rules us all: shadow and light, crisp views unfold. We can see, we take aim, we hold on to the whole, just barley touching the ground - as we move forward.



Friday, October 14, 2016

Immigration - Election Time and About Time to Get Some Perspective

Election time and about time to get some perspective on issues that are to complex to leave too simplifications. Read Mexican Roots, American Soil: A Quest for the American Dream, by Ernie Bringas. A book about immigration that is intelligent and knowledgeable, by a first generational Mexican American:

"... my first purpose for writing is to help mitigate the prejudicial attitudes that prevail. It is prompted by what I consider to be a direct assault against the Hispanic people, most notably, against Mexicans ..."

"I hope my family’s story— fleeing from the battlegrounds of the Mexican Revolution in 1916 to the USA—will help other Americans recognize the positive contributions made by immigrants that have woven their unique threads into the American fabric. That’s one of the great values of immigration. It’s the bloodline that keeps our nation from becoming anemic, and stagnant.  From top to bottom, the social, musical, athletic, professional, and intellectual contributions made by the constant flow of immigrants are incalculable."
"We must be mindful that the benefits of immigration are a two-way street. I will simply say that I am eternally grateful to my family members who had the vision for a better life, and had the tenacity to make that better life possible by crossing the Mexican/American border.  I still marvel at their courage and foresight.
On the other hand, I can point with pride to what this country did for me and for our family as a whole. With open arms this nation provided all the opportunities needed for the pursuit of happiness, including education and job opportunities. We, in turn, gave back with service, dedication and loyalty. That will become evident as our story unfolds."
Written by Ernie Bringas.
Images with courtesy of Pixabay.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

When Hel Is Walking through the Waters, Roses Bloom in the Dark


When Hel is walking through the waters, roses bloom in the dark, roots turn and sniff for more.

A goddess, a place, a state: final destination made divine. The most scary thing made holy. Holy as rotting corps are holy.

What do we do with Death? Death goddess whispers sound advice, to faint for us to hear.

Autumn is here: season of the witch: holy times, the time of Hel.


Photograph by Michael Peter Langevin

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Mexican Roots, American Soil: A Quest for the American Dream," by Ernie Bringas


A Book Review - by Michael Peter Langevin, 
from the October issue of The Echo World


Mexican Roots, American Soil: A Quest for the American Dream

Written by Ernie Bringas

Published by: Phantasm Press, 2016

This is a book for our times. With the immigration issue blaring in the headlines, and being forefront in the presidential election debates, this is a refreshing story of the journey of the author’s family members who fled the battlegrounds of the Mexican Revolution. After documenting his family’s story the book becomes the author’s autobiography. 
Ernie was recording in Hollywood with his band The Ripcords while attending school to earn his B.A. at California State University, Long Beach. After the Ripcords broke up Ernie earned his Masters of Divinity at United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio. Ernie was a dedicated minister for decades. As a minister Ernie worked in many poverty stricken communities and did his best to bring the teachings of Christ to those whom it could most help. This book is often humorous about a first generation Mexican American. As an Amazon review so well states: “It illustrates through real-life example that the “sky’s the limit” for anyone in search of the American Dream. Immigration issues will continue to be front line controversies for years to come. Mexican Roots, American Soil seeks to help Americans recognize that the welcome mat afforded incoming immigrants does not have a one-sided advantage. Immigrants continue to weave their unique threads into the American fabric.”

Michael Peter Langevin

For more bookreviews from the October issue of The Echo World, go here. And to p.11.


Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Torch Rune - Let the Fire Flare


The Torch rune: Fire, destruction, flaring, creativity, sudden insight.
Hold that torch high and read the symbols on the cave walls ...



The Torch rune is the rune of the flaring fire we carry to find our way in the dark. Use it to light yourself up from within. Or simply light an outdoor fire in an autumn evening and watch the smoke rise, hear the crackle when flames lick the logs. Throw curses and boring old thoughts on that fire, and let them burn. 

Get rid of the old, and give room to the new; more magic, deeper knowledge, and passion burning from within. The wise one wants you to move further into the dark and see things you haven't dared to see before.

Artwork: Sofia Karin Axelsson


Friday, August 12, 2016

"Robert's 101 Rules of Order for a GOOD Life," by A. Robert Smith - Some Distilled Wisdom


Some distilled wisdom for the every day struggling soul. Robert's 101 Rules of Order for a GOOD LIFE, by A. Robert Smith, deserves a place on the kitchen table, or in the handbag, for daily inspiration. At the age of 91, veteran journalist and author of ten books, has published a book of proverbs, his own and those of famous names such as Confucius, Churchill, Elenor and Teddy Roosevelt and not the least, Benjamin Franklin, Robert's own favorite among the Founding Fathers.


I recommend it!

Life and Death - to Honor the Spirit of the Deer


To honor the Spirit of the White tailed deer, I placed him on a favorite spot, stones of white, directly from the ground, and leaves of healing on his forehead. Mimosa - strong friend.

Life and Death. White tailed deer. May the morning light be soft on your head, and make me soft inside. I pray for all life, I pray for peace, and I give thanks, to all life there is.



Sunday, August 7, 2016

Slow


Slow. Sometimes we have to take the time to just look at our creations. Many spiders weave their webs in the dark. Their visible in early morning, dewdrops glistening in delicate, strong threads. Webs seemingly dissapering in the hot sunlight - becoming invisible to the eye, but not the skin.

Looking at my creations. Weaving tonight, or perhaps tomorrow. Weaving webs of light and dark, of life and death. Grandmother SpiderWoman, Old Wise One. We weave. But don't stress. Let the weave be, and wait ....



Friday, August 5, 2016

"Robert's 101 Rules of Order for a GOOD LIFE," by A. Robert Smith. - A Bookreview of a Feelgood Book


I found this small pocket sized book of wisdoms just great. Quote books of sayings in general can sometimes be tedious: often truisms thrown together that no-one can live by, few believe - not even the person who put the collection together. That's why I like A. Robert Smith's Robert's 101 Rules of Order for a GOOD LIFE.

A. Robert Smith is a veteran journalist and author. He was the founding editor of Venture Inward magazine, author of nine previous books, including The Lost Memoirs of Edward Cayce and a former Washington correspondent and columnist whose work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, Portland Oregonian, Virginian-Pilot and other publications. He wrote Robert's 101 after recovering from a massive stroke and published the book recently at the age of 91. As far as wisdom sayings go - he knows more than most what he is talking about.

Mr. Smith uses the old-fashioned style of proverbs―short statements that are meaningful and often humorous. About half of the proverbs contained here express his views on marriage, family relations, child behavior, and other earthy topics. The other half includes proverbs and sayings by popular figures, such as Ben Franklin, Shakespeare, Confucius, Schweitzer, Churchill, the Buddha, Maya Angelou, Mark Twain, and Will Rogers.

This is a book that made me smile. Very well excecuted in it's gengre.

Or as Mr. Smith and Confucious states it:

"'Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life,' said Confusius.
I chose a writer's life, and loved it; it often meant working overtime - but I loved that too."

It shows.


"JESUSGATE: A History of Concealment Unraveled" - A Review of an Important Book



“This is not a religious book; it is a book about religion. Specifically, this work seeks to assess the Jesusgate phenomenon. The term Jesusgate, used herein, indicate that Christian leaders, by act of commission and omission, have seriously neglected their responsibility to share with the laity vital information about the origins of Christianity and the Jesus tradition. As a result, an incredible knowledge gap has ensued between what scholars of religion now know, as opposed to what lay people have been led to believe.”

The quote comes from the introduction of JESUSGATE: A History of Concealment Unraveled by Ernie Bringas.
But why should this knowledge gap matter to any of us, especially to those of us who have taken a step back from Christianity? But it does matter; it matters because the widespread ideas and beliefs of Christianity and the Jesus tradition prevail worldwide. Accordingly, all of us are affected by these traditional beliefs, be we Christian or not, beliefs that are no longer rational or defensible.
That's why Ernie Bringas’ book is so important. The ongoing reluctance to share mainstream religious scholarship with lay people, simply does not serve us. It has consequences. Over the past centuries, this knowledge gap—between scholar and layperson—has led us to bigotry, the persecution of Jews, murder, the oppression of women, the suppression of science and many other aberrations.
Bringas makes a clear case that the beliefs that most people have about Christianity are obsolete, and he exposes the reasons why people continue to splash around in the backwaters of a religious mind-set equivalent to that of the 17th century. Bringas breaks down these misconceptions step by step, and provides the knowledge that will help diminish that debilitating handicap.
He goes on to say: “Because scholars of religion utilize a scientific methodology, their fact finding record has proven remarkably productive.” He estimates that of the over two billion Christians worldwide, less than one percent of them know much about the findings of New Testament scholarship, rendering the majority of Christians and non-Christians alike, religiously illiterate. When Bringas speaks of “religious illiteracy,” he is not referring to what laypersons may or may not know about biblical content. Someone may well be able to quote you chapter and verse and yet be religiously illiterate; that is, totally unaware about the findings of religious scholarship.
This work doesn’t make any claims about supernatural subjects (e.g.,Does God exist?) that are outside of the scope of critical thinking. It focuses on the origins, development, selection, authorship, historical reliability, translation and transmission over the centuries, of the New Testament (NT). It also explores the issues surrounding the historical Jesus, the “divinity” of Jesus, prophecy, the status of women in the NT, and the influence of first-century religious and cultural worldviews on NT development.

Contrary to the seriousness of the subject matter, there is much humor in Bringas’ approach; he even throws in a few cartoons for good measure. This was a joy to read, on a very serious matter that affects us all, Christian or not.

Author Ernie Bringas has a Master of Divinity degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and was ordained as a minister of the United Methodist Church. He served the Church for almost twenty years before venturing into academe, where he currently teaches Religious Studies at Glendale Community College in Arizona. Under their auspices, he previously taught these classes at Arizona State University. Interesting to note, during the early 1960s Ernie, with partner Phil Stewart, founded a rock group that came to be known as THE RIP CHORDS. Recording on the Columbia Records label, they placed five hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reclaim Your Energy from the Past


We are all connected: people, groups, communities. Through ideas and developments, we all grow together. But sometimes connections, meetings, emotional entanglements and challenging situations stop us in our tracks, rather than give us what we need. Worst case scenario, we end up giving away our energy and our power along the way, and before we know it we feel depleted, lack inspiration and drive, and wonder how we got to a point where life lacks color and spunk. We might even be so drained that we get sick and develop ailments of different kinds.
Some people see this as a natural part of life. We get older. We lose the passion of the very young. We cannot expect to be sparkly at thirty, fifty or eighty. Life is a hard ride after all, and it’s expected to wear us down, make us jaded and somewhat tired. Or is it?
In the classic book, Entering the Circle: A Russian Psychiatrist’s Journey into Siberian Shamanism, by Olga Kharitidi, there is a story of Olga meeting a woman who has the ability to change her appearance by daily looking through a photo album with pictures of herself, chronologically ordered in age, showing her younger for every image. This woman’s ID card told Olga she was many years older than she appeared.
How was this possible? Was paging through a photo album some kind of magical act? In a way, I would suggest it was. The woman was taking back her energy from earlier days, reminding herself of who she had been, bringing the energy of earlier times into her present day, to be used for altering her being in a positive way.
In many spiritual traditions, the fact that we are all connected is the premise of existence. But also that we, in this interconnected web, can move and affect things out of space and time. Meaning for example that we can go back in time and change the effect of negative situations where we have lost power. We all have experienced times when we were too overwhelmed, weak or inexperienced that we came out feeling like the losers in specific interactions.
We may also have give away our power to subtler influences, such as religious or society value system that we were not experienced enough to see through. While positive daily practices and a good-natured daily life with loving people in itself can make stuck energy in the past get loose and flow back to us naturally, we also have the choice of consciously going back in time and reclaim what we lost.
Several Ways to Reclaim Lost Energy
There are several different ways to go about this restoration. Carlos Castaneda introduced the idea of recapitulation to the larger audience during the 70’s. This technique has later been refined by many authors such as Victor Sanchez and Merilyn Tunneshende. Recapitulation is a method of recovering the power and energy that we have given away to people, places, and things.
It often involves an organizing element of writing down all your experiences according to themes and chronology. After this work you use a certain method involving breathing exercises to systematically go through your life and recollect what you have lost. Although this seems to work very well for many people I personally prefer to go about energy re-gathering from the past in a more organic and self-oriented way.
This suits me because I believe that our essence, or our soul if you will, not only knows what we need. It also knows what we can handle. This method begins not so much with a mental exercise, but with the feelings and needs of the moment.
True deep spiritual experiences and energy work cannot be properly described with words nor fully understood intellectually. They can be felt with the heart or experienced with the spirit. Yet trying to use words to describe them we might say that if you were a whole large clay vase when you were born, you have been leaving shards of that vase behind whenever you have had intense negative experiences.

As you mature you have the option of checking in with your heart and spirit and ask: “What am I lacking? When and where or with whom in my past might I have left it?” If you cannot grasp fully when and where you lost what you now lack, you can simply state the question, keeping it with you when you do the following exercise.
The regathering of what you left behind is an inner journey. As all inner journeys we have to create a certain state of mind to make the most of it. Most importantly, we have to set up a time and place where we are certain to be undisturbed. To start an important inner journey and be interrupted is not only irritating, it can also be painful and cause us more harm.
People who regularly work spiritually, have different favorite relaxation techniques. These can involve lightning candles, burning incense, playing a certain kind of music or drumming. Whatever technique you use, make sure it suits you personally. Also make sure the body is comfortable and feels supported. The whole point with preparation for an inner journey is to become calm enough for the body to relax, the mind to stop chattering and to opening up for the worlds that lie within us.
When you are ready, close your eyes and allow scenes to play up for your inner eye. They may not be exactly what you thought they would be. That is fine. It is even more likely that they are important if they are not what you expect. When you see the scenes of your past with your inner eyes, part of you can see the situation from an energy level. I often see energy as colors, some people see energy as threads, as animal forms or simply feel the feelings.
Just become aware of the exact moment when energy left you, or was taken from you. Then imagine it rejoining and reentering you. It is also possible for you to reclaim or pick up the energy and put it in a bag. Bring it with you and reintegrate it later, in a ceremony, or just before you fall asleep at night.
To reclaim energy from the past is an ongoing process. We can do it as need comes up, and work through our past lives piece by piece. Some people even do it as a daily practice, ending each day with a recovery of energy loss that might have occurred during the day. Whatever method we use, it is important to remember that we all have the ability to go back to any moment in time and reclaim energy and power we left behind and restore it to ourselves. We are not helpless victims of the past, but active agents of the presence.


This article has been published in The Echo World, the alternative magazine in Central Virginia, and at OmTimes magazine online.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A Real Stroke of Insight - an article by A. Robert Smith, published in the August issue of The Echo World


A Real Stroke of Insight


By A. Robert Smith

(This is the full version of the article, published in the August issue of The Echo World: The Alternative Magazine in Central Virginia.)


I woke up early that morning in June 2011 and realized something was terribly wrong with me physically, but I didn't know what. I didn't think to press my Freedom Alert button and stumbled into the kitchen confused about what to do. My housemate Ruth O'Lill emerged from her room and greeted me joyfully, but I couldn't answer. In fact, I couldn't respond to any of her questions – I was tongue-tied.  She called 911 and the Virginia Beach Rescue Squad rescued me in a flash.

En route to the hospital, questioned by a medic, I flunked all three questions: my age, street address, birthday.
“I think you had a stroke,” he said.
I was distracted thinking that I should be going to my dentist for a root canal.
“Who will tell her I’m having stroke instead?” I wondered.
Someone obviously told her, for Dr. Deborah Blanchard visited me that evening with sweet-smelling flowers in hand.
At the hospital I tried to read the Virginian-Pilot, but couldn’t make sense of the words. What does this mean? Is this the way my life ends? I spent 50 years writing for newspapers and magazines, but now I can’t even read a simple news story!
I was diagnosed with a hemorrhagic stroke. The left side on my brain was flooded with blood from a ruptured blood vessel, wiping out circuits needed for diction, speech and memory. That resulted in aphasia, the inability to produce spoken language, and agraphia, the inability to retrieve words. I could visualize answers to questions, but the words wouldn’t form in my mouth. I sometimes uttered different words than I was thinking. It felt like my brain and mouth were on different wavelengths.
I told the Virginia Beach General hospital staff that as a writer, I needed a cure for my aphasia. The docs didn’t promise anything but said that the right side of my brain might pick up some of the lost facilities from my left brain if I worked hard enough. I was determined to succeed and asked my daughter to find a first-rate speech therapist. She brought Janet Gilbert, MS, CCC-SLP, to my hospital room, where we both vowed together to do everything we could do to restore my speech and writing skills.
With 30 years of experience treating stroke victims, Ms. Gilbert gave me daily assignments for four months, starting with saying aloud the letters of the alphabet until I could write sentences and paragraphs. The fun was when we got to limericks; clean limericks, you understand. Or the short talks that I read aloud to my dog, a Yorkie who is now the smartest hound in Bay Colony.
In addition to speech therapy I also received NeurOptimal brain training from my daughter Dana, who moved here from Seattle to care for me. I had never heard of brain training before, so I just watched while she hooked me up to a special computer that reads what my brain is doing and feeds that information to my central nervous system. Then the brain recognizes its own patterns and adjusts itself toward optimal functioning. I received this non-invasive thirty-three minute procedure several times a week for several months.
Dana said many clients participating of this kind of brain training report improved sleep, better focus and clarity in this kind of brain training report, and relief from symptoms related to traumatic brain injury, anxiety, depression and migraines. I’m still getting brain training whenever I feel I need it. Thankfully, I feel sharper and more intuitive.
My goal was to finish a memoir on my life as a newspaperman. I was encouraged by a book Ms. Gilbert loaned me, My Stroke of Insight, by Jill Bolte Taylor, Ph.D., who recovered from a massive stroke and now gives lectures on how she did it. After reading that book, I thought, “I can do that, too!”
My therapist also recommended I find a proofreader to sort out my misspellings and sentences that needed rethinking. Susan Lendvay, editor of Venture Inward magazine, volunteered and kept my prose safe and sound. My book, God Gave Me a Mulligan, was completed (and got a favorable review from the Pilot’s book columnist William Ruehlmann).
Four years after my stroke, I felt I was going downhill again in the speech department and needed more therapy. My doctor, Louis Croteau, and my speech therapist Janet Gilbert agree to send me to a new therapist, Mary Daddio. She worked with me about two months, showing me how to remember numbers. I couldn’t even remember my own phone number, much less anyone’s. The solution is to reduce each digit to a word, so the number 4 becomes a four. Mrs. Daddio had me translate my main numbers, passwords and other health trivia, into words. She also loaned me another marvelous book, One Hundred Names for Love, by Diane Ackerman, whose author-husband, Paul West, had a major stroke, and recovered to write a book about it. Ackerman writes her account of caring for a loved one with brain problems.
After my speech therapy was completed, I noticed that Dr. Croteau seemed a wee bit nervous whenever I brought up the subject of driving. All my rides since my stroke have been as a passenger – and I soon discovered that my children wanted to keep me out of the driver’s seat.. “I’m a very careful driver,” I protested. I even drew a map showing where I intended to drive, including Dr. Croteaus’ office, the post office, Farm Fresh and the Quaker Meeting, all within a 10 to 15 mile radius of home. But my map pleased no one. They said I should walk the dog as long as I had the strength to keep up with Westy, but driving was not a good idea.
Then a strange thing happened, my daughter (who once drove a taxi), was in a traffic accident that totaled my Prius. I was safe at home when it happened, and thankfully, Dana had only minor injuries. But that crash unnerved me about going anywhere, no matter who was the driver. I gave up my campaign to drive again, and surrendered to being chauffeured about.
Another question we had to settle was whether I needed to be a teetotaler. I like a beer or glass of wine at the end of the day, but my first speech therapist suggested that this might not be best for me. I could certainly abstain, but an article in Neurology Now (March 2016) settled the question, quoted studies from five different medical sources and concluding: “A glass of wine or bottle of beer (two glasses for men) may protect against stroke, Parkinson’s disease, and cognitive decline.” Since reading that article, I’ve sipped my evening glass of port, just as though my doc had prescribed it.
These days, as I celebrate five years without a second stroke, I have no complaints. How much the right side of my brain helped to make up for the left side’s disaster, I can only guess. My memory is only half-speed sometimes, and I remember faces more than names. I still can’t spell many words, so I rely on my Oxford Dictionary or substitute a word that I can spell. Also, my hearing is in decline, so I gave up movies in which lovers whisper to each other. Hearing all the opinions in my weekly book group is still a problem, although friends don’t mind my asking them to repeat their opinions, especially on politics.
My goal is to mimic Dr. Howard Jones, Jr., the co-founder of the Eastern Virginia Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine, who kept writing books until he died at 104. I just had my 91st birthday, and I have a new book, Robert’s 101 Rules of Order for a Good Life, that has just been published.

These are some of the tricks I pull to navigate through life with a brain that’s operating at less than full speed.  



Bio: A. Robert Smith was the founding editor of Venture Inward magazine, author of ten books, including The Lost Memoirs of Edward Cayce and a former Washington correspondent and columnist whose work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Newsday, Philadelphia Inquirer, Washington Post, Portland Oregonian, Virginian-Pilot and other publications. He lives in Virginia Beach, and can be reached at abob@cox.net. "A Real Stroke of Insight," was first published in The Virginian-Pilot.









Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Bear


Bear walked over the field one night.

It was just before the fullmoon.

Love walked over the porch that night,

soft footsteps on silky soles.

We walked outside hand in hand,

bear's pawsteps still in the grass.

We both felt it, felt the heat,

the heat in the traces he left behind.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016


The Echo World, distributed in Central Virginia, has a great website.

Feel free to visit and take a look around: