Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Lasagna in your trunk.

December 12th was the 8 year anniversary of my mother's passing away.

cember 12th was the 8 year anniversary of my mother's passing away.

Regardless of one's religious  or spiritual views, one thing that we can all agree on is that people live on in the hearts and minds of those that knew and loved them. For some, that is a lot of people. It certainly was in my mother's case. She touched the lives of hundreds, maybe thousands of people during her short time with us. She cared more than most. She went out of her way more than most. She made a difference to those that she knew and loved and to strangers too.

Strangers?  I can remember that when I was a teenager, she saw a homeless man and for some reason  he really pulled her heartstrings. She ran home and got blankets, sweaters, snacks and went right back to deliver them to the homeless man. She needed to do something for him.

She had a huge heart that knew no boundaries. Some would say that she cared too much. I would never say that. What I would say is that she was a little crazy…..maybe more than a little. For so many years it seemed as though she never left her house without a cooked turkey or a sheet of lasagna in a cooler in her trunk. After all, you never know when you might meet someone who needs a turkey or lasagna! When my cousin Jon married Marcella it seemed as though it was months before they made their own dinner. Why is that? Because early in the morning my mother would drop off a complete meal for the two of them. If my mother wanted you to have something, she figured out a way to get it to you, whether you wanted it or not. She was a master of covert operations.

While it may sound like she was more than a little annoying, she wasn't and nobody minded her eccentricities because it all came from a place of love. It all came from her heart. She spent her life taking care of those that she loved most, often neglecting her own needs and health. That is part of the reason why when diagnosed with cancer it was already at stage IV. Our lesson learned: you can't take care of others if you don't take care of yourself.

My mother taught us many things. She taught us how to share and to care more and how that can make a difference. She taught us how to give without expecting anything in return. She taught us that when we do things for others, and it comes from our heart, there is no limit of how much we can give.

December 12 may be the anniversary of the day she died. It is certainly a day to remember her. In my case, so was 2 days ago And 4 days ago and 11 days ago. I can honestly say that I think about her every day and that I am not alone. She was extraordinarily close with my wife and my children, my brother and his family, cousins, neighbors, her accountant, insurance agent, colleagues and more. The day that she died may seem like an unusual reason for remembering her. But I see it as just one more reason to remember her. After all, I do it every day.

You may be gone, Mom. But you are still a part of our lives and that is how we keep you living forever.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Old Stories

Age is different than it used to be. When I was a kid and my grandfather was 65 years old, he was a little old man. Back then many companies had mandatory retirement at age 65. Today people in their 60’s are an active, vital part of the workforce. It was rare that you met someone who was in their 80's and today it is a common occurrence. More and more I meet people in their 90's and I love it. Especially when these "mature” members of our community are still active and vital and ALERT!

Over the years I have gathered a few stories about these “Super Seniors”. This blog is written to share a few of these stories with you.

Meet Uncle Sam and Uncle Larry
Uncle Sam and Uncle Larry were identical twins, always have been and as far as I know, always will be. Sam lived to be 94 years old. When he passed the doctor said that Harry will probably pass within 30 days and he did. This is not uncommon for identical twins. It is also great that they both lived so long.

The story about Uncle Sam
Uncle Sam was a happy man. Most days were started with a couple of Bloody Mary's followed by a visit to the putting green right outside his door. He was happy for several reasons. One is that his hearing was not so good. I often say that he was happy because he hadn't heard anything that anybody said for 20 years. (Maybe we could learn from that!) Everyone knew that he had a hearing aid because we could all hear the ringing noise that it made. That is, everyone could hear it, but Uncle Sam.

After my great, wonderful and beautiful Aunt Elaine, Sam's wife of many years, passed away he got a much younger girlfriend who was only in her 70's.

The story is that one morning Sam's grandson's wife called to check on him and the conversation went like this.

" Grandpa Sam, it's Jenny"
" Who Is it?"
" it's Jenny. Steve's wife, Jenny.”
" I can’t hear you and don't know who this is, but I can't talk right now. I have just taken a Viagra and my girlfriends coming over." CLICK

There goes a happy 94-year-old man.

The story about Uncle Larry
One day I was out with my family and we ran into Uncle Larry at a deli close to where he lived. We had just a short conversation and he said one of the greatest things I have ever heard.

"Uncle Larry, how are you feeling?”
"The closer I get to 100, the worse I feel."

If that is not the good news and the bad news all rolled into one, then I don't know what is. 

My friend's aunt
My best friend's aunt passed away recently at the age of 91. Her mother had passed 14 years earlier at the age of 100. 

The story is that when the aunt was only 77 years old and her mother was 100 years old, she was visiting and talking to her mother and at one point her mother interrupted and said this:

"What are you complaining about? You have got your whole life ahead of you!”

That is something that most 77-year-olds don't hear from their mothers.

The Old Testament and my 93 year old grandmother.
The Old Testament tells us that we are to live to be 120 years old. It is common among Jewish people that on birthdays our birthday wish is "you should live to be 120".

My grandmother lived to be 93 years old and her mind was sharp and quick up to the very end…. except for one thing. She could not remember the punchline to this one story……

Molly Picon, a well-known actress within the Yiddish theater (she also played Yente, the Matchmaker in Fiddler On The Roof) would always greet people the same way on their birthday by saying “you should live to be 121.”

Someone asked “Molly, most people say that you should live to be 120. Why do you say 121?”

She replied saying “So you shouldn't die suddenly.”

May we all lead long and healthy lives. May we all live to be 121!

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Friday, December 2, 2011

30,000 Hits and No Bruises!

Today is the day. Today my hit counter says that my blog has been visited 30,000 times.  Actually, the last time that I looked it was 30,154. When I started this, I never dreamed that so many people would read and comment about it as well. My views, my thoughts, my opinions all seem to have resonated or touched many people who read my blog . Wow!

It is quite a pat on the back, or at least a confirmation that my views are valid. It tells me that what I have to say means something and not just to me but to you as well and that is why I write. I have always felt as though I have been blessed with a good attitude and perspective about life. Your visits to my blog tell me that I am right and encourage me to keep going. I have not always been consistent in my writing. Earlier this year I went almost 3 months without any new entries. Now I am back on track, motivated by your visits, support and comments.

I know that there are other blogs out there that get 30,000 visits a month, maybe a week or more. That's not me. My blog is not a business. It is an outlet for me when I have something to say. Truthfully I have a lot to say and just don't always make the time or discipline to sit down and write it. That may be a good thing for all of us. 

I do have a new favorite blog and it is doing quite well and rightfully so. It is called "Phoebes Stupid Cancer" and is the daily news about my friend's daughter's journey with cancer. It details her treatment and incredible perspective and spirit. It also tells us about the amazing people she is surrounded by and what a difference they are making to her. She has been writing for 30 days now and has already been viewed more than 4,000 times. I feel privileged to be included in her journey and humbled by the attention that she is getting and deserves.

It is the year's end and the beginning of the gratitude season. It is time to take stock of the many blessings and all the good fortune that we have had during this past year. It is time to make plans for the new year. 

My goal, my resolution is to give you all many good reasons to hit me, or at least visit my blog.

Participate. Make a difference. Live alive that matters.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What are you doing on Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I suppose that the food has a lot to do with it. I also love seeing so many of my family and friends that I could never see often enough. We also do a lot of reminiscing on Thanksgiving, or at least I do and have every intention of doing the same thing at this year's Thanksgiving.

A day to give thanks. Really? Really? Just one day? To me, giving thanks is something to be done daily, if not several times a day.  My good friend, let's call him Jim, has been in a program for many years. While in the program he had a sponsor and they spoke to each other almost daily. Every conversation started the same way. " What are you grateful for today, Jim?"  WOW!  That is powerful stuff. Imagine if we all took the time to think about what we are grateful for, or thankful for each and every day. Do you think it would make a difference in our world? I do.

At the risk of being redundant and repeating myself and being redundant, as I have said many times before, gratitude is the key to happiness. Gratitude is the same thing as being thankful. Being thankful is what we are called to do today. This has nothing to do with religion or faith. It has entirely to do with how we choose to live our lives and see the world.

I recently saw a video of a man speaking about "The Happiness Advantage". In it the speaker discusses how so many people believe that they will be happy " when…". His argument, and it is a good one too, is that people who are happy are more likely to be successful than those who postpone their happiness until something happens. (The video is long and he does not start speaking until 33 min. into it. I promise you it is worth waiting for.)  I say why wait? If gratitude leads to happiness, then Thanksgiving seems to be as good of a time as any to start being thankful. 

I am asking everyone to do one thing today. After the greetings and the hugs, maybe even before dinner and drinking, take a minute. Think about what and who you are thankful for. If you are gathered around the table, tell everyone what you are thankful for and ask them to do the same. Give this Thanksgiving its full meaning and purpose. Be thankful, and then be happy that you have so much to be thankful for.

For me and my family  Thanksgiving is a very special holiday that I have written about in the past. For one thing this holiday is definitely a big part of "My mother's legacy"and I suppose that has a lot to do with why "Today I feel thankful."

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Enjoy the holiday……. and all of your leftovers.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Our circumstances have nothing to do with our happiness

I wrote this more than three years ago and came across it again recently. In today's world, it seemed appropriate to publish it again. I hope you think so too.

Sick or healthy. Rich or poor. Thin or fat. Tall or short. Curly haired or bald. None of it matters when it comes to waking up happy everyday. What does matter is gratitude and perspective.

What makes a man rich? It is not money. There are plenty of poor people – “economically challenged” – that feel wealthy in ways that are beyond their wildest dreams. They are ‘loaded’ with family and friends, rich in experiences, and participate in life like tycoons. They are showered in immeasurable riches of making a difference to someone and to the world in which they live. These are the people whose vocabulary does NOT include phrases like “I will be happy when…”, or I would e happy if…”

These people know that there are two keys to happiness. Those keys are gratitude and perspective and they go hand in hand.

Gratitude comes from the recognition of just how much you already possess. Gratitude is the opposite of taking things for granted. The challenge for most people is that they don’t know what to be grateful for or where gratitude begins. There are hundreds of items on my list. Below are some of my favorites.

1. Eyes to see and read
2. Ears to hear and listen
3. Arms to hold. Hands to touch
4. Mind to think and understand
5. Heart to feel and care
6. Roof overhead & bed to sleep in
7. Food to eat and tongue to taste
8. Friends to care for & care for me
9. Family to love & spend time with
10. All of my good health. (Other than my MS, I have a lot of good health that I don't take for granted.)

These are all items that you can’t buy and that cannot be taken away from you. Even if I lost one of these, say sight or hearing, there is still much to be grateful for.

Recognizing the value of these assets is a matter of perspective. What’s your perspective? Where does your gratitude begin? Just how rich are you? It is my hope that if you are reading this, you are already a very wealthy person.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jim Morrison taught me how to sing.

Jim Morrison, the artist, the poet, and legendary lead singer of The Doors taught me how to sing. I know this is a crazy notion. He died in 1971 and I did not learn how to sing until 1973. But, it's true.

I grew up in Whittier, California until I was 14 years old. Then we moved to Huntington Beach and as a sophomore in high school, I was the "new kid", a less than enviable position to hold. I missed my old friends and old surroundings. That longing made it harder to make new friends.  Without friends, I had a lot of time to myself and developed new habits, one of which was to come home, put on the headphones, turn on the stereo, and sing my heart out. In particular I loved to listen to the "Doors Live" album and would sing along, with my friend Jim, for hours at a time. The vocal range, the pitch, and tone all seemed perfect for me to sing along to and that is how I learned to sing. Practice. Practice. Practice.

You're probably asking, didn't you know how to sing before? Sure, anyone can sing, but not everyone can sing well, on pitch, on key, and with no flats or sharps.  My older brother seemed to have great musical skills. He could sing and play the guitar. Wow! At one holiday gathering we got up to sing together and I was nicely asked "why don't you let your brothers sing this one." I got the message. I did not have his natural singing ability. In fact I was just no good at it... until I met Jim.

Once I learned how to sing, my world changed. I got involved with the school choir, starred in the school musicals and had found a new way to meet people and make friends.  I also learned much more.

I learned, and wholeheartedly believe, that everyone can sing. People who say "I can't sing" usually don't. How are you going to learn anything if you don't do it? Perhaps you don't sing well, have perfect pitch or a voice like Madonna or Jim Morrison, but you never will ifyou never do it. That was an important lesson and has stayed with me
ever since.

Years later, as my kids approached their teenage years, both felt as I
did: that they could not sing. So I pressured, harassed, encouraged
and sang along with them and do you know what happened? They learned
how to sing, got involved with choir and were in the school musicals.
Our son, who had less confidence in his singing then his sister,
became so confident that when he went to college he started an a
cappella group. Both of our kids learned this lesson too.

Singing is also good for the soul. It is a form of expressing almost
every emotion. Joy, sorrow, excitement, loss, love and so much more.
"That is exactly how I feel" Is how we respond when someone has
already put the words and music together. Singing allows us to
verbalize, vocalize those feelings. Expressing those feelings can only
be good for the soul.

If more people sang, the world would be a happier place. We don't have
to join hands and sing Kumbaya (not that this is a bad idea) and we
don't have to sing today's Top 40. What we can do is sing, sing more, sing out loud and sing because it is good for you.

I like the sound of that. Don't you?

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.                            

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lessons from a dog.

Our dog is extraordinary and wonderful. (Whose isn't?) She seems to be happy all the time. Always ready to play. Always ready for affection. Always ready to go outside or for a ride in the car or for a walk to the corner. I know that if she could talk she would never tell you that it was gloomy outside.

This thought occurred to me this morning when asking about the weather and was told "it is a little gloomy outside."  Not something our dog would ever say. “Outside” is always glorious, a wonderful opportunity for adventure, intrigue and excitement.

Why is that?

Our dog greets every day with enthusiasm and excitement. A new day is a new opportunity to meet new people, make new friends, go new places, play new games and most of all to get her belly rubbed. Even when engaged in seemingly monotonous activities like " fetch", she exudes a happiness rarely seen in people. Maybe there is something to be learned here.

She seems to greet every moment of every day as an opportunity.  Wow! What a great perspective. Do I do that? If not, then what am I missing out on?

Imagine how different life could be if we saw every moment as an opportunity. There is no question that every moment and every experience is an opportunity to grow, feel, learn and much more. The question is what keeps us from being as excited as a dog in greeting every moment of every day that way? I suppose a simple answer is that we are busy, or other things get in the way. Dogs don't have to pay bills, go to work, or be responsible for pretty much anything. If they were, I wonder if they would greet those activities with the same enthusiasm as they do everything else?

As I think about it, my guess is that our dog probably would greet each day, each task and each responsibility that same way. Maybe it is time for me to re-think how I approach every minute of every day.

Maybe “it's a dog's life” isn't so bad after all.

 Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Bells Will Be Ringing

Pride, joy, excitement and anticipation are a few of the feelings we have had since we learned of our son's engagement to his girlfriend Abby. It always seems as though everything in life happens at just the right time and this marriage will be no exception to that rule.

We are very proud of Adam's decision to marry Abby. She is everything we could want in a daughter-in-law. Sweet, loving, kind and she makes him very happy.  

Together they make a beautiful couple and seem very good to and for each other. What else could we ask for?

For as long as we can remember Adams's goal in life has been to get married and have a family. He wants to be a husband and a father and I think those are noble aspirations. I am also certain that he will be great at both. (Abby will see to that!)

Abby has every characteristic and trait that our son could want in a partner. She is smart, beautiful, playful and affectionate.   A life and a family are also on her list of dreams and desires and we have every bit of confidence that she can and will have both.

What I like most about both of them is their grateful spirit. They are both filled with a deep sense of gratitude and that will bring them much happiness for many years to come

Abby is a small town girl from the Midwest. Adam is a big city boy from LA. They met on the East Coast. It must have been their destiny. B’shert!

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

I was abducted by aliens.

I was abducted by aliens. My dog ate my homework. My grandmother…….. Well, you get the idea.

Many years ago I learned that you either have results or reasons why not. I have a lot of reasons why not, but the fact of the matter is that I have just not been writing. I have started to. I actually have 2 dozen blogs that I have started and not finished. I could blame it on my MS, my family, or any one of 100 other distractions that are more commonly referred to as life. It's funny how life can get in the way of doing other things. Isn't it?

Readers are generally less concerned with the blogs I have started than the ones I have finished. That is pretty much how life is too. As I said earlier you either have" results" or "reasons why not", more commonly referred to as excuses. Let's look at that for a minute.

People who do things never have excuses. Excuses are what people who don't do what they say they are going to do always seem to have. I know this is obvious, but we don't always pay attention to how it relates to ourselves." I tried losing weight but I couldn't." I tried to quit smoking but it was too hard." " I tried to exercise every day but I just don't have the discipline." if this sounds familiar, raise your hand. ( Both of my hands are in the air!)

You can tell when an excuse is coming by the language we use. "Try", "should have" and "almost" are the words used by people who don't get results. People get results say things like " I did it"

What is worse is since we all use excuses, we are always ready to excuse others. We even have phrases like" at least you tried", or " try, and try again". We even say" that's okay. I forgive you" as though that lets someone off the hook for not doing what they said they were going to do. What we do not do is hold people accountable.

Imagine that if we or someone we knew was dieting and not losing weight. What would happen if we asked" what did you do instead?" It might give us or the dieter the opportunity to tell the truth!" I decided to have the cheesecake(or ice cream, or seconds, or cookies. You fill in the blink) instead of diet".

Why haven't I been writing blogs? All I can say is that it had nothing to do with aliens, the dog, my grandmother. I am pretty sure that it had something to do with me.

From Now on I plan on being much more consistent with my writing…….. Unless, of course, something really fantastic gets in my way.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

How to be beautiful

One of my favorite greeting cards reads "For your birthday I was going to get you a day of beauty for $175. But all I could afford was a day of relatively attractive for $35."

Just a couple of weeks ago I went to the movies with my wife and my travel companion, my wheel chair. While there a woman approached me and much to my surprise said "You're beautiful. Oh my God, you are beautiful" and then began to awkwardly apologize. She went on to explain that she wasn't used to seeing attractive people in a wheelchair, but I think she was saying much more than that.

I am not beautiful. There are no beauty pageants in my future. No one has ever come up to me and said that before. What she was really confessing was that her image of a person in a wheelchair was of someone 'unattractive'. That a wheelchair somehow suggested a deformity or disfigurement and thankfully, I don't have either of those. What I do have, and many of us with disabilities have, is to have combat those expectations of being unattractive, deformed, mentally incompetent (STUPID), hard of hearing or somehow less than ``the more able bodied occupants of our planet'.

So let me tell you what I do. I smile at people and say hello. I start conversations with strangers. I make it a point to be seen as the happy guy in the wheelchair….whether at the movies, the grocery store, the doctors office or the airport. Some of the places we go to regularly know me for that and if I have somehow changed their expectations of a guy in a wheelchair, than the world is a nicer place and we are all better off.

Do smiling, saying hello and being friendly make someone more attractive? I think so and apparently the woman at the movie theater thought so too.

Whether in a wheelchair or not, become known as the happy guy. Change people's expectations of how people are and how you are. Smile, say hello, ask a stranger "how are you today" and see what happens.

My guess is that before too long, someone will tell that you are beautiful

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ten things to learn from Japan

I received this e-mail the other day and thought it was worth sharing. I hope you think so too.


Not a single visual of chest-beating or wild grief. Sorrow itself has
been elevated.


Disciplined queues for water and groceries. Not a rough word or a crude
gesture. Their patience is admirable and praiseworthy.


The incredible architects, for instance. Buildings swayed but didn't fall.

4. *THE GRACE (Selflessness) *

People bought only what they needed for the present, so everybody could
get something.


No looting in shops. No honking and no overtaking on the roads. Just


Fifty workers stayed back to pump sea water in the N-reactors. How will
they ever be repaid?


Restaurants cut prices. An unguarded ATM is left alone. The strong cared
for the weak.


The old and the children, everyone knew exactly what to do. And they did
just that.


They showed magnificent restraint in the bulletins. No silly reporters.
Only calm reportage. Most of all - NO POLITICIANS TRYING TO GET CHEAP


When the power went off in a store, people put things back on the
shelves and left quietly.

With their country in the midst of a colossal disaster - The world can learn much from the citizens of Japan.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The power of the internet to do good. More about Chelsea's Hope

I wrote a blog about 18 months ago called "What if it was your child?' It is about my niece, Chelsea who has an extremely rare and always fatal condition called Lafora Disease.

It is so rare that there are only a couple hundred known cases worldwide. There is also no treatment and no cure. Here is what we know about Lafora today:

Kids are typically diagnosed in their early teens

The mental and physical deterioration occur rapidly

No one with Lafora has lived to be 30 years old

Life expectancy is usually about ten years from the date of diagnosis. Chelsea was diagnosed almost six years ago.

What does all this have to do with the internet? Plenty.

Increased awareness means increased funding for research and treatment. Chelsea, or rather Chelsea's Hope, a non-profit organization founded by  her incredible parents is now in the final round of a contest sponsored by Toyota. 

If we win, a car will be decorated and dedicated to Chelsea's Hope. To win we need votes which you can do every day until May 1st. We need your vote.  We need your friends to vote. We need you to go onto Facebook or MySpace or Linked In or whatever social  network you belong to and help us generate as many votes as you can. That is the power of the internet to do good in the world. But if we do nothing, nothing will happen.

Voting is simple. Just CLICK HERE.

To learn more about Chelsea's Hope, CLICK HERE.

To make a difference I the world, TELL A FRIEND.

That is the power of he internet to do good in the world. I hope you will help us to do that.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Monday, March 7, 2011

What do bingo, drag queens and MS have in common?

Plenty…..especially if your bingo is hosted by a well known drag queen named Belle Aire and all the profits go the National MS Society. 

Tonight was our night and we (The JiggyWiggits) hosted our first fundraiser of the year and it was a hit. We netted just over $3,000, all for a great cause and all for a great organization. It was fun, entertaining (and how!), inexpensive and we gave away dozens of great prizes that were all donated by friends, friends of friends and businesses that we frequent. We kept it simple, low cost and I am sure that we will do it again next year and the next year and the next.

I am telling you this because I am very proud of what we have done. My wife and daughter took the lead on this event and made it all happen. It was definitely something different. More importantly it was something.

The key to fundraising is to do something. Girl Scouts sell cookies. Students sell chocolate bars. Churches have yard sales. Even neighborhood kids set up lemonade stands. If you want to raise money you have to do something.

The National MS Society gives people opportunities throughout the year to participate, raise money and make a difference. Then there are scores of people who do their own events be it concerts, tennis tournaments or bake sales.

The question for us is always what else can we do? Your question is what can you do, or better yet what will you do?

I recently read about a man who since 1999 has raised over one million dollars for the Society (Momentum Magazine - Winter 2010: “The Gillespie Whirlwind”). He has MS Walk teams in eight states, does a big wine tasting event and has enrolled the help of many others to achieve these results. I know that I can do more and he is my inspiration.

Bake sale? Carwash? Or just drag queen bingo? That is up to me. What will you do? I would love to know.

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My Year With MS

We live an extraordinary life and 2010 was certainly no exception. We went to Australia for two weeks and it was incredible. One of the most beautiful and friendliest places we have ever been. Then we went on a big family cruise to the Mexican Riviera. Swimming with dolphins is amazing and something everyone should do….and that’s just the beginning.

Living with MS and traveling, which I love to do, does take its toll on me. The trip ‘down under’ included two fifteen hour plane rides. While there I spent all day every day in the wheelchair. My bad. When I got home I had less ability and confidence when using the walker. Then a few weeks later we went on our cruise to Mexico. Again no walking, all wheelchair. Guess what happened next? I got a blood clot which landed me in the hospital for three days on anticoagulants. OY! Long plane rides put everyone at risk for blood clots, especially people like me with limited mobility to begin with.

Then in September I started experiencing weakness which came on very quickly. In fact, because of the rapid on-set, we were certain that it must have been an infection and rushed to see a doctor. (Have you ever tried to see a doctor at Cedars-Sinai on a Jewish holiday? Good luck!) Exam, blood, urine, the works and there it was; an infection. Thank G-d. Now we knew what was causing all of this and could treat it. Right? Not quite.

The most common form of MS is Relapsing-Remitting MS and is characterized by exacerbations, or flare ups. Periods of greater weakness and often other symptoms that last for shorter periods, usually weeks. They are followed by a recovery, often full and all too often leaving the MS’er with less ability or more symptoms than they had before the flare up. I don’t have that.

I have what is known as Secondary Progressive MS. This form of MS is characterized by a slow, steady progression of the disease without flare-ups. Or as my doctor put it “You don’t get exacerbations….unless you do.” That was me. Years without an exacerbation until 2010 and then BAM! I got one.

We will never know which came first, the infection or the exacerbation. My ability to move, stand and walk was already pretty limited. Once the exacerbation hit, the standing and walking were gone. I also could not transfer from one chair to another on my own and needed a caregiver to help me to the wheelchair, toilet, shower, back to the chair. You get the picture.

This went on for a few of months with no improvement. Then in January of this year my right calf started to swell and harden. Another blood clot? I called the doctor and he said to go the emergency room. I did. No blood clot. Hurray. They did, however, admit me and gave me three days of IVIG, an infusion treatment for acute exacerbations. While there I was evaluated by the physical rehab’ team and accepted into the program, extending my stay by another two weeks and receiving 3.5 to four hours of therapy everyday……and do you know what happened? I got stronger.

Evidently five months of not moving can really contribute to muscle loss. Though I did make a lot of progress, I am still not walking with a walker and barely (and rarely) able to stand. But it’s a start and I’ll take that.

There is also more to MS than just disease activity…...at least there is for me.

I run a monthly support group in our area for the National MS Society that continues to grow in size and value. Also, Gail and I have served three times as co-facilitators at a weekend relationships program for people with MS that the Society puts on and we have loved doing this. We hope to do it again and again. Our 2010 Walk MS Team, "The JiggyWiggits", was again one of the top fundraisers in the country bringing our four year total dollars raised to just over $130,000. (Our next Walk is April 3rd and everyone is welcome to join us. Just click JiggyWiggits.) Finally, although my blogging has slowed down a bit, it still gets a fair amount of traffic and is a very rewarding experience for me.

It must read as though our lives revolve around MS. They really don’t. There is so much more going on than I can fully address in this letter. Gail runs (and I help) her dad’s foundation (www.zachorfoundation.org ), we are starting a new business, we take time with family and friends and we manage to have things to do most every hour of every day. Add to that the fact that my beautiful wife has had some of her own health issues to deal with and we stay very busy.

And then there is MS which is like having a gorilla in the room. It can’t be ignored and when MS wants our attention, it lets us know.

My year with MS was certainly a year of challenges and changes. It was also a year of learning more about MS and about me. This year, 2011, is off to a good start. I feel fortunate, blessed and privileged and much of that is because of the people around me. My wife, my children, my family and friends all show up and all contribute to this amazing journey we call life. They make it possible to do all we do and to make a difference and that makes me very happy.

When I went to the hospital I wrote I am happy to be here.” Now that I am out and home, I have much more to do.  Will I continue to exercise?  Will I continue to exercise my influence over this disease? Will I continue to participate and make decisions that result in my happiness regardless of circumstances?  That’s up to me. That’s my choice. That’s what I am choosing to do.

Support me in this year's MS Walk. Join our team and contribute to the JiggyWiggits by clicking here. You, and everyone affected by MS, will be glad you did.   

Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.