Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Walking the Dog

Whenever I walk my golden retriever, Roo,  at the park, beach, woods or canyons, when she gets far away and doesn't see me she seems very concerned until she looks up and doesn't see me.  Then she spots me and all is well. I'm not sure if she's nervous about losing me or concerned for me that I've lost sight of her.  It's kind of endearing either way. 

When she pees I give her an enthusiastic "good girl!"  She's nearly six.  I think she thinks I'm an idiot.  

I take Roo to a nursing home on Monday afternoons to visit patients.  We had her tested a year to become a therapy dog. She's very calm and people just love to love on her. Every time We visit, when we step out of the elevator onto the second floor the same lady is always there, in her wheelchair, in her house robe in the doorway to her room.  Every time I see her she pets Roo and tells me the same thing; "They know! They know who likes them".  I always smile and agree with her. "They sure do". 

It's such a sad place. The nursing home. It's amazing what a few minutes with a silly dog can do for a person.  

Brandon!   Well we did it. It only took a week.  I put the word out on Saturday night that Brandon was not going to be able to play hockey at SDSU this season due to his family's finances stemming from his dad's stroke.  See previous two blog posts for the full story. 

The response was inspiring.  From the closest friends to the kindest strangers. Hockey people and not.  Friends of friends, friends of strangers, hockey coaches, players, teams, rinks, parents and fans.  

I went to the Aztecs season opener last Friday night.  They won. Brandon played.  His parents and twin brothers were there.  I met the coach prior to the game and turned over the $1000 plus that I'd collected.  I will be delivering most of the balance at the game this Friday night.  They play a tough Colorado State team this weekend.  Come watch!

It looks like we should come in slightly above our target.  If so, any excess will be given to Brandon's parents to help with their bills. 

To see the look of appreciation on Brandon's face when he spotted me during warmups made me aware of the miraculous immediate offer to step up by all of you.  Pretty cool again.   We made a lot of people happy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Well On Our Way

Great response to my last post putting out a call to the San Diego hockey community and beyond.  As you may recall, our friend Brandon Nevarez, a junior at San Diego State University, was planning to not play hockey for the Aztec's club team this year, after playing hockey every season for most of his life since probably the age of six.  Again, this was due to the hardship that has befallen his family due to a massive stroke suffered by his dad a couple of years ago.

I was at a preseason exhibition game last Friday night for the Aztecs.  Brandon was playing.  I saw his parents and went to say hi.  They then told me Brandon was only playing tonight, but would not be able to play this season due to their financial situation stemming from Robert's stroke.  By the way, not to embarrass, Robert, but I'm pretty sure he was visited by an angel during his hospital stay.  He went in for surgery, experienced a blood clot, which went to his brain.  He then fell into a coma, only to then suffer a massive stroke.  Robert's life was over.  The doctors were saying, if he survived he would surely be brain dead.  I was talking to Robert's wife, Barb and she was telling me that they were preparing to have him moved because the facility where he was staying was not authorized to "pull the plug".  That's how far gone he was.

And then he woke up!  So that was good.

It's been a couple of years and Robert is a living, walking miracle.  Things are still difficult for him, but he's an amazing human being, as are his wife and kids.

Anyway, back to the task at hand.  I started this fund raising effort the next day after the exhibition game.  That was Saturday night.  I wasn't sure what to expect, but then Keli, an online Scrabble partner from Canada sent me a message that she would like to donate.  Cool.  Then a few minutes later I got a message from Phyliss in Bonifay who offered to send a check.  Then Paul, whose son plays defense for SDSU with Brandon pledged $100.  Then Greg, a dentist from Scripps Ranch and hockey player/dad/coach made a pledge.  Next Brian, one of Brandon's youth hockey coaches who now lives in NY State offered to contribute $500.  Paula, Karen and Mike, all hockey parents from San Diego contributed.  Dan, another Canadian Scrabble friend and Montreal Habs fan donated.  Marty, Greg and Tim, all San Diego adult league players chipped in.  Larry, Jamie, Skyler and Debi...all friends and hockey families who grew up with Brandon were next.  I've heard from the professional San Diego Gulls All-time scoring leader.  Dave, who's daughter plays D1 hockey for Union College and son is also the goaltender for the Aztecs is making a meaningful donation.  (just got back from my mail box-Checks from Frances, Danny & Monica, Mike and Paula!!!  Thanks you guys!)

Last night I contacted Brandon to let him know what was happening.  I asked him how would he like to play this year.  He responded that unfortunately he was not going to be able to.  I broke the news to him about the generosity of you all and he was speechless.  The first thing he said was how could he thank everyone. So we've made a young man, his family, his teammates and his coach very happy.

The season and home opener is this Friday at the Kroc Center at 9pm vs. Long Beach.  Come out and support the Aztecs and Brandon(#18) and please keep sending money!!!! Still need about $1000.

Update: Tuesday morning, 9 am.  I just called Brandon's parents.  I wanted to make sure it was ok with them that I disclosed the above story about Robert.  They hadn't heard yet about what we are doing here, so I got to break the news to them.  They were stunned.  I asked them what they were doing Friday night. Nothing.  How about going to the hockey game.  Well, since Brandon isn't playing they aren't going...What if I was to tell you Brandon is playing.....ta da!!  So we'll see the whole family at the game.

Hope to see you too.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Bit Out of the Ordinary

So, I posted this on facebook earlier and we've gotten a great response.  Some of my friends were asking if I could post it so they could share this with some of their friends to help out with this cause....so please excuse the break in my normal blogging while I share this with my friends and friends of my friends:

To the San Diego hockey community and anyone else who might be interested.  Your help would be greatly appreciated.  We have a friend, a kid who that our son grew up playing hockey with on the San Diego Junior Gulls.  His name is Brandon Nevarez.  Brandon and his family have no idea I am making this request.

Brandon's dad, Robert, had a massive stroke a couple of years ago.  Robert fell into a coma and was days away from having the plug pulled.  He made a miraculous recovery and is up and about.  But the family is strapped.  Brandon plays hockey for San Diego State University.  This is his junior year.  SDSU is a club team playing ACHA DII hockey.  Brandon is unable to play this year due to family finances.  I wanted to do my part and see if I could help raise the $2200 needed to allow him to play this season.

I've asked if anyone might know of a fundraising website I might use to help collect the funds.  But in the meantime, people are sending checks to my address at: 3625 India St #301, San Diego, CA 92103 and making them out to SDSU Hockey and writing Brandon Nevarez in the memo field.  Some people are comfortable sending the money directly to my paypal account.  If you wish to use paypal, send me your email address and let me know how much you'd like to contribute and I will have an invoice emailed to you so you can handle it that way.  Pretty simple.

Thanks a ton.  I would love to help Brandon out.  At this point he and his family are unaware I'm making this request, but they will know soon.  Hard to keep this quiet.

I put this on facebook earlier this evening and we are already at over $800.  If I end up with more than we need, I will give the funds directly to the Nevarez family to help out with their finances.

Thanks for your generosity.

Steve Balaban

Don't Talk To Strangers

It's 102 degrees in San Diego today. Nice relief from yesterday's 106. There were three little kids, brothers I'm sure, waiting for their parents who were in line at the coffee bar.   All three had in the same San Diego Padres caps and Oceanside t-shirts.  I said something to them but none responded.   Ah, their parents taught them well, don't talk to strangers.  How's that gonna work out for them?  Assuming they are never kidnapped and survive childhood, how are they going to succeed in life where most people you meet are strangers?  Oh well, their problem. 

It seems I inspired a friend if mine who has back pain to do something about it.    I stopped by my friend, Susan's house the other day. She read my blog and followed me on my journey to Mexico.  She was very excited to share with me a new back treatment she discovered.  It's called "the M.E.L.T method".   Here is a link:

I'm not sure what MELT stands for, but it involves rolling on a foam roll to achieve spinal decompression and strengthen your core   There's a good YouTube video on the website. I've tried it and it seems to provide some relief. I found a place called Blossom Pilates in Hillcrest that has classes in it. Also, there is an instructor at the Scripps Ranch swim club who gives classes.   

I stopped by Blossom Pilates yesterday and scheduled a MELT session for Monday.  Hopefully Debbie, the instructor, stays out of harms way until then.  I'll let you know how it turns out.  

Off topic but, I'm not a big fan of Tupperware.  Sure it does its job just fine.  It's when it's off the clock that it bugs me.  I don't know about your house, but we've never had a good way to store our Tupperware.  It's always a pain to try to match up the tub with the right sized lid.  I hate fishing it out of the pantry closet.  I hate pulling it out of the dishwasher and putting it away.   I try to let others deal with it when possible.  Sorry Kyle. 

Finally, I spend a lot of time following the political discourse in this country.   I don't want to make this blog political, so I'll refrain(for as long as I can) from pissing some of you off with my views.  They are well known among my Facebook friends.  At any rate, I get so frustrated, angry and bemused at "the other side" that I occasionally attempt to elevate the discussion beyond partisan, identity based opinions to the larger picture.  It doesn't usually work.   This morning I determined to try to see my opponents as their highest and best truth/self.   Sadly, for a few that appears to be hateful whackos.  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hope and Change!

I've never had  much faith in hope.  It occurs to me a simplistic,  positive thinking, mind over matter that somehow excuses one of not taking action or responsibility.  

I didn't  particularly intend for this blog to be about my back pain.  However, it is almost always on my mind.  I've been through just about all the standard therapies and then some.  I started with a major surgery soon after graduating from college. That was followed with my early adulthood spiritual quest.  Among other spiritual disciplines I explored Rolfing, acupuncture, chiropractic, yoga, tai chi, certain let's say-medicines, long distance running and cycling.   

Fast forward to the last dozen years and you can add five additional spinal surgeries, spinal decompression, traction and steroid epidural injections, ACT(active release therapy) etc.   

I'd pretty much given up and resigned myself to living out my days with this deteriorating spine.  That is until recently with my trip to see the shaman.  

So, looking back on my trip to Mexico I am starting to see that the theme was unacknowledged hope.   Hoping for a miracle.  Hoping for a magical cure.  No real action or responsibility. Rather a suspension of skepticism, an openness.  It was a fun adventure and I'm glad I went but I  can see a hole in the logic.  Just saying. 

I mentioned getting plenty of generous suggestions and recommendations from friends.  Earlier this year my sister, Rachel, emailed me the link to a review of a book called, Anatomy of Hope.  I skimmed it but it didn't make much of an impact at the time. 

She sent me the link again this week in light of my quest and for whatever reason I was much more open to it his time.  You can read the book review  here.

This review led me to Dr. James Rainville who has a spine clinic in Boston.  Here is an interesting (if you are dealing with back pain) article and youtube video here and here. Dr. Rainville's approach is counter-intuitive.  Rather than resting and protecting your back from pain, he runs a "Back Boot Camp" where you aggresively strengthen the muscles of the back with out regard to the pain.  Look at the youtube clip for a better explanation.

I think I found my next journey.  I'm planning a trip back east this fall to visit family and catch a few of my son's college hockey games.  I think I'll include a visit to Dr. Rainville to look into this hope thing. 

Update. I called and scheduled an appointment with the good doctor.  Should I warn him about my recent history with healers?  

Oh yeah, I was visiting a friend the other day and after telling her about my recent near miss with the shaman she offered me a few drops of healing water from Lourdes.  So I have that going for me.  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saturday Afternoon

Lying on the couch  Kyle's at work. Roo is wiped out.  Every so often I think maybe riding a bike might be good for my back.  I give it a try and usually end up paying for it for weeks.  

I tried it today. We'll see how it turns out. I took Roo. She was a champ. She ran along side me without a hitch. Meaning without a problem.  Of course she was "hitched" with her leash. Anyway, she was very impressive.   It was about mile and a half each way.  Flat in both directions. We sat and had coffee with friends at Cafe Italia listening to a band play Average White Band, Tower of Power and various other 70s funk and soul. 

Anyway we are crashed out, me on the couch and Roo in her crate, watching TV. I just saw one of the most meaningful TV shows in my life.   I watched Louis CK's show on demand from this weeks show on FX. 

I've been a fan of his for a few years but only just recently discovered his show.  It a little bit Seinfeld/Curb-like. Only not Jewish and more realistic, less silly.  Sometimes funny, often awkwardly painful. 

On this week's episode Louis gets a break, a shot at the big time.  The show is shot in a semi, quasi (is there a difference?) reality style format.  It follows him in his life and on stage doing his stand up routines. His humor is very personal, occasionally a bit too crude for my liking, but it's very honest. 

In this show he is presented with the opportunity of a life time.  His reaction and how he deals with it, the way the chairman of CBS makes the offer is one of the most genuine authentic moments I've seen on TV in a long time if not forever. 
Here is a link to the main scene:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPsjN2qQGvE

I have a fascination with stand up comedy.  I have a secret fantasy that I might be able to actually be a stand up comedian.  I have no real "talent". I can't act and I certainty can't sing.  I'm actually banned from singing in my house.  I have been for a long time.  I even shutter myself when I try.  

You may or may not know this, but I have been on a medical leave from my work for over two years due to my back condition.  I want to go back to work and if Enrique  had lived or my next surgery is successful or if I connect to god directly and heal myself I hope to return to work.

I don't honestly think I could have a successful career doing stand up.  For me, standing up might even be a challenge but I think I could have fun and I think I could make people laugh. I did many presentations for my work as a financial advisor over the years and people always laughed at me.  And I wasn't trying to be funny. 

At any rate, I was thoroughly engaged in the way Louis CK deals with the opportunity to change his life forever.  I feel like I'm at that point, albeit without the offer from a major network.  But I  am at a point where I can choose to continue heading in the direction I'm going or take a chance and deal with the uncertainty of A new challenge.  Stay tuned.  

Next up, a nap and a quick cleanup so my wife is happy when she returns from a long day of making women happy and beautiful.