Friday, December 16, 2016



I worked with yoga teacher Jill this morning. I showed her my morning exercise/stretching/yoga routine and she talked to me about focusing on my breathing and stretching my fingers and toes (fingers are difficult, I can still type(yeah!), but I can’t squeeze them together or spread them apart, (my star trek joke – is I can’t do live long and prosper), but I can still spread my toes, which I was happily surprised with.  We talked and I cried, thinking of the first time I saw Jill this summer after she returned from Hawaii, it was July or early August some time before the diagnosis and I gave her a welcome back hug and told her I was broken.

Jill set me up on the floor in different restorative positions with blocks, blankets and pillows, she wants me to join YogaGlo and look into Ram Dass’ book and video, and start doing some short meditations and even chanting. Deep breath, it is all so overwhelming. So many things to do. So many things I want to do. Too many props, too many things I can’t physically do, or not without a ridiculous amount of effort.

I saw Andy yesterday. It was my only appointment in town, except for chores. We talked about a lot of things, the main thing in my head right now being how I am overwhelmed by everything, all the change, the extreme change, how the stress of the store still hurts me, how I need to completely eliminate that in order to heal, how all this focus on myself is exhausting and how everything is upside down. I have a new diet, I can’t eat potatoes, sugar, grains, no bread, no pasta, no rice, no fish, no pretzels, no potato chips, no ice cream. No No No to too many foods. So a whole new diet.  We talked about all this focus on me, being a complete flip from my life of work work work.  I’m learning to be receptive to help, accepting help.

And we talked about my body, alignment, breathing and meditation. That is the truly upside down part of my life. I need to be so so so mindful and in the present especially when I am out and about and even at home. I can’t be 5 steps ahead of myself because I will fall. Most people are in their heads, thinking of something else, not what they’re doing at the moment. I used to be like that, I can’t be anymore or I will fall, nor do I want to be. I want to be mindful of the present. Mindful of every step, I’ve repeated this frequently in the blog because it is a hard switch to make.

Transition. Transition. That’s the song I need to sing and give myself room for change. It is such an extreme change.  Never have I focused on myself like this, but it is the path to healing. Andy had me focus on my breathing, and the bottom of my shoulder blades, dropping my shoulders, softening my tongue, my forehead, the skin below my scalp, and as I softened I felt my lungs open up, my voice became stronger. When I softened, my shoulders dropped, I could feel the shift, the calmness.

We didn’t talk about this, but the words, “calm down” are so loaded for me. My father often told me from my childhood until he died, “Calm Down Mawk, See your Chrysler Plymouth Dealer, Calm Down. That’s how he said my name, and that t.v. commercial was what he referred to whenever he thought I was getting too excited. Calm Down, See Your Chrysler Plymouth Dealer.

So for me to stay calm, I have to focus on myself, I have to let the tears flow and not choke me. I have to be me, honest with myself, honest with my friends, my family, my community. I can’t let the store cause me any stress, I have to give up the store. That is going to be hard. I have given so much of myself to the store, happily given of myself to the store. It’s been my lifeline, my success, my place in the world, behind the counter of the store. Stan’s Lunch, P&S Stationery, Womrath Books, Primarily Cards, Beyond Baroque Bookstore and Literary Arts Center, The Hungry Moose Market & Deli Town Center, The Hungry Moose Market & Deli on the Mountain.

That is where I have lived for the first 55 years of my life. And now my body has said no more.  Transition. Patience. Give myself a chance to change. Nothing needs to happen overnight. I have to make a shift. The shift is happening.

I have to pay attention to my body. I have no choice. I have to pay attention to my breathing. I have no choice. I wish that things could be different, but they’re not. I am happy to be paying attention to my mind and writing again.

Andy and I talked about some of this, but writing helps me process deeper. There is so much going on with me especially as every detail of my day is so packed with metaphor and meaning. I guess that’s what happens when you are mindful.

So here’s some more of the details of yesterday:

Ben, Cooper’s hubby, picked me up at the house at 11:30 am. He helped me get my shoes and coats on. Jackie got the car warmed up and we loaded up with Ben driving our car which is easier for me to navigate the in and out of.  We drove and talked our way to Bozeman. Talked getting to know each other talk, business talk, family talk, big sky talk, boy talk. We don’t know each other that well, but we are getting to know each other. I know his wife Kristen very well, she started working for us in 2005 when we opened up the town center store and stayed on for about 5 years. She was 19 years old at that time. Now she’s married and they just had their first baby two months ago, a gorgeous little girl. So Ben and I got to know each other. He’s into making beer, I’m into drinking wine. We drove to Belgrade and picked up Chalet Market. Then onto the snowy highway to 7th then Rouse, to La Chatelaine Chocolates, then Rockford Coffee. All I had to do was sit in the car. Ben was me, navigating through the snow, finding the people, asking for the order for the Hungry Moose, loading up the car. Then we went to the main co-op for lunch. We could park in the handicap space right in front. Ben held my arm and kept me steady as I slowly walked with my trekking poles on the snowy sidewalk. I was so full from the giant breakfast Jackie fed me that all I wanted was a bowl of cauliflower curry soup. Ben carried the tray with my soup and his sandwich to the register, following behind me as I trekked slowly ahead. Then onto the elevator, and I almost tripped, as mindful as I was, on one of the mud rugs, but I was able to catch myself. I get stiff from all the sitting and my feet get heavy and my toes don’t lift and I get tripped up on rugs, but I was O.K. I stumbled in and out of the elevator and walked across to an empty table. Ben was spotting me and carrying the food. Ben helped me off with my coat and escorted me to the bathroom door, where I took off by myself. On my way out a random customer who had just come in immediately offered to hold open the door for me and I gratefully accepted. I have developed a small fear of public doors, especially bathroom doors, being thrown open unexpectedly by quickly moving people with other things on their minds.

So lunch done we slowly walked back out of the Co-op and back to the car. Ben held me tightly and I mindfully got to the car. He opened the car door. I handed him my sticks. I held on to the handle with my left hand, threw my left leg in, switched hands on the handle and dragged my body and my other foot into the car.  I was in, Ben handed me the buckle and I was secured. It was only 2 pm and my appointment with Andy was at 3 so we had time for one more chore, a personal one.

We went to Sacred Image Tattoo and Piercing shop next to the Grateful Shed. Tanner was there with his full body of tattoos ready to help me get my nipple rings back in. I had to take them out way back in August when Dr. Daniels sent me for an MRI of my brain, neck and spine. I couldn’t get them back in easily because my hands didn’t work very well – those darn fine motor skills – (but I can still type!) So finally, I was getting them back in.

Tanner asked me some questions:

How long were they out? 3 months
How long were they in? 28 years
Where did you get them pierced? Left one in L.A. at The Gauntlet,
Right one in New York at The Gauntlet.
Wow, do you remember who did it? Eileen in L.A., don’t remember the guy’s name in New York

Tanner loved hearing about The Gauntlet, the first and only place to get body piercings in the country back in the day. As we talked he got to work. Ben left.
It took Tanner a bit of effort, a dull needle to find the hole and then create a pathway. He needed to use a smaller gage needle, then the bigger needle then the ring. A bunch of tugging and poking, but finally the right one was in. And then the left one he was able to do much quicker, but just as painfully – but so worth it. On my way to being back to normal. Sore nipples, but back to normal.

It didn’t really take Tanner that long. Ben walked in just as we finished up. I asked him if he liked all the sound effects, but he was next door the whole time. Then it was onto Andy’s, still a bit early, gave me time to trudge slowly through the snow, to get my coat off, use the bathroom, and relax for a minute. Then the session with Andy.
So Ben had a break from me and went Beer Brewing supply shopping. He picked me up around 4 pm where he found me standing in the waiting room. He helped me get my coat on, walked me slowly to the car and we were on our way home. A pit stop at the Moose to drop everything off and then home. Ben helped me in and then he was off to karate.

Howie was home, and I went straight to the bedroom for a nap. I was tired.


  1. Hi Mark, I am so glad you are writing! And it's a great way for us to hear what you are up to and how you are doing, and get a peek at what your daily life is like. Lots of challenges but you are doing everything you can to take care of yourself! We can't wait to see you guys in a couple months. Love you...Julie

  2. Hi Mark, Patrick and I were "all in" until we read about the nipple rings. I mean, really, you have ALS AND nipple rings?! Irregardless, we are holding on to the bottles of wine we have to share with you and Jackie on our next trip to Big Sky. Fondly, Blaine