Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Abundant Laughing Situations (ALS Humor)

If you've been keeping up with my recent posts you've figured out that even though I have ALS, I maintain a ‘glass-is-half-full’ attitude. Plus, I’m passionate about wellness.

So today, I thought you’d enjoy learning how I incorporate various wellness activities throughout my day. Take for example, a simple trip to the grocery store.

First, I’m not driving anymore… well; I could drive, in that my driver’s license doesn't expire for another couple of years. It’s because I wear braces on my lower legs. Hard white plastic supports that keep my feet in a permanent flexed (toe up) position. They’re good for helping me stand upright, but not good for a car’s accelerator. Imagine having to drive with a pair of ice skates on your feet! I’d be in a constant full-stomp on the gas pedal - - bringing a whole new meaning to the term, “Lead Foot Driver.” Any hope of braking would have to start at least two blocks back. Best to only turn me loose on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

So, my husband does the driving; which allows me, in the front passenger seat next to him, the freedom to perfect my wellness behaviors. Like making sure my color vision is still up to par; at stop lights, I never miss an opportunity to announce, “You can go now. The light turned green.” For some reason, my husband doesn't appreciate my excellent eyesight or assistance. Perhaps that’s why he puts me through a 'voice volume check,' with his penchant for attempting left turns; mid-street, crossing heavy oncoming traffic. Me? I’d choose a right turn anytime, and keep turning right till I made it to my target street. He imagines himself Mario Andretti; gunning the engine at the starting line. Which is my cue to begin vocalizing a low “ooooooh” sound. When opportunity strikes, we shoot to the halfway point - - with both lanes of cars coming straight at us. By now I’m at the higher pitched, “YEEEE!” Finally, we turn in, allowing me to let out a stress relieving “YEOW!” From this point on we practice what is commonly referred to in the wellness industry as, ‘observing silence.’

I've never paid much attention to parking lots, we all don’t. But using a walker-with-wheels, I recently picked up the highly under-rated art of handicap ramp analysis. You’d think city codes would prompt retail sites into building decent ramps - - but they don’t.  Sometimes, in the name of practicing my wellness community advocacy, I’ll raise a fist in the air and proclaim: “Hey strip mall owner! I recognize a water run-off drainage trough when I see one! Just because you paint a bunch of yellow lines across it, you can’t make it double as a handicap ramp during the dry season!

My solution is to use the bad ramps for impromptu fitness stress testing.  Nothing raises my heart rate, blood pressure and stress hormones like hovering at the top end of a dirty old cement ramp. Sizing up its steep, narrow, cragginess I imagine myself as Olympian Lindsey Vonn, ready to push off and hurtle down the slalom run. With a white-knuckle grip on my walker, I carefully lift the wheels over a two-inch gap where the cement has pulled away from the curb and begin my slow descent. By the way, ankle braces are also not good walking downhill; forcing me to do a choppy “heel-walk” down the narrow gang-plank. My ALS-weakened thigh muscles are put to the test but, they last only five steps. Even though I squeeze the hand brakes hard and fully lock the wheels, gravity takes over. I begin a downward 'shuffle-step-slide' cadence and suddenly an image enters my mind. It’s of another skier; the hapless Wide World of Sports athlete. The one who earned fame by tumbling end over end during an Olympic ski jump event - -accompanied by the dire narration, “The thrill of victory, the agony of defeat!” 

Having reached the safety of the flat parking lot surface, I remember to end my wellness lesson with a moment of gratitude; mentally thanking the anonymous strip mall owner for providing me with such a great mind-body experience.

If there’s an electric shopping cart available at the store, I always use them. I find they’re excellent for practicing patience; as in, I always seem to get the slowest one in the corral. And, they’re dependable: no amount of body language or bearing down on the hand lever increases the speed. I can glance down and see ants passing me by.

Not to worry, as cart traffic inside the grocery store is generally pretty slow as well. Especially navigating around the “cart cruisers;” you know, the short heavy set people who drape themselves onto the cart’s push bar in such a way that their feet barely touch the ground. Off they go, gliding down the aisles like Venetian gondola’s; their feet acting as poles in the water.

If my self-esteem ever needs a boost all I have to do is look around; I’m surrounded by folks who seem far worse off than me. Like the ones who don’t own a full-length mirror or, don't have close friends to whisper in their ear, “I don’t think you should be wearing that...”  These are the women who put the clothing label, “one size fit all” to the test - - managing to cram their "rotund" lower bodies into spandex leggings. I can only imagine they've been wearing them for days - - and can’t get them off again. Since the leg seams always appear to be one squat away from bursting, I usually move right along; so as not to be called in later as a witness to an unfortunate event. I mean, we all have to draw the line in the sand where our personal wellness-social-responsibility ends, don’t we?   

I often see mothers with kids in tow. She, intently reading the grocery list while her brood darts around the cart like little fish through coral. This is when I let my inner-child emerge. Slowly, I  pull up alongside, like the big kid at the playground who shows up with a real Schwinn bike among a sea of tricycles. I have their full attention, and can feel their envy that I, an adult at their eye level, has the “cool ride.”  I’ll even admit to a little bravado; feigning the need to back-track I’ll put the cart in reverse, which causes a shrill “beep-beep-beep,” (similar to garbage trucks) to echo down the aisle. That's when I hear a collective, appreciative, “Ooooh!” But, before any of the little tykes become emboldened enough to request a ride, I hunch down, giving it my best impression of an Italian motorcycle racer, squeeze the cart's “go” lever, and take off…all at the mighty speed of one mile per hour!

As you can see, one of the most important components of wellness is to have a sense of humor. I hoped you enjoyed this fun look at my Abundant Laughing Situations. 

Now it’s your turn to go out and "Find the Funny!"

Dagmar Munn
ALS and Wellness Blogger


  1. Dagmar: I am a retired physician. During my years of practice as a primary care internist, I've made a preliminary diagnosis of ALS for several patients: always disheartening! I am also the brother of a sister (Laurie Manning) who lost her life to this disease when age 54. You have allowed me to read a draft of your new book. It will make a huge positive impact on the lives interrupted by ALS: both patients and care givers. It must be published and promulgated, and pronto. Having had the good fortune to have you, and your Ron, as neighbors for many years, I can attest to your passion for both practicing and teaching wellness matters. This blog will serve as a gift for those dealing with ALS, as well as several other chronic diseases. God's speed! William Galbraith, MD, MACP.

  2. Thank you Dr. Galbraith! I appreciate both your endorsement and couldn't come from a more highly respected and knowledgeable person such as you.

  3. Dagmar - I already email the link to your blog to all of our newly diagnosed individuals. Thank you for living your story...not only for individuals living with ALS - but for those of us who attempt to understand, but never will......brava my friend!


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