Here and There

I just sneezed, and all of the tissues that were sitting on my chest flew elsewhere. 

We've been sick around here. Today is the first day I'm admitting it. For myself anyway. The trash can in my bathroom is overflowing with tissues, but I don't really feel like emptying it. It's an insult to the injury of the common cold. 

I officially have three days in the books of being gluten-free. Migraines have been back with a vengeance in the last month or so. I started getting 2-3 per week again, which was similar to the frequency with which they were coming shortly after we moved to Los Angeles. Last fall, I started following the "Healing Psoriasis" diet, and, for a time, I cut out gluten as well. I was obviously eliminating a lot of things, but gluten seemed to have the most effect on migraine frequency - that's with already knowing that my biggest migraine trigger is lack of adequate sleep. I feel like my sleep has been sufficient lately, so now I'm singling out gluten specifically this time to see if it's related.

One of the classes I help teach at work is a reading class for students who aren't quite ready to move into college level English classes. The reading levels range from 2nd grade to around 8th grade. I love these students. Today they took a reading assessment exam as part of what will determinewhat English class they will be in next semester. 

One of my students in a stroke survivor. He already has a degree, and was very much at the top of his game in his career when, at 31, a massive stroke changed everything. He was alone when it happened, and wasn't found for three days. He spent a month in the hospital in the city where he was living before he was stable enough for his parents to move him to California. He spent the next year learning to walk and speak again. He has been in various types of therapy in the 5 years since his stroke and is taking the reading class at the recommendation of his speech pathologist.

When I handed him the reading assessment exam, he looked at me, and uttered a few words that let me know he'd like for me to read it with him. We went into the conference room attached to our classroom space, and I read the article and each question of the test.

I've loved spending this semester with him for two reasons in particular.

1. It is endlessly fascinating witnessing how his mind reconstructs language that was lost. Little things like association - the word of the page is "mountain," but he says "hill." Sometimes I look at him and know that the words are all there, other times, I know we're creating meaning on a blank slate. The mind is amazing. His mind has shown me just how much it is.

2. His sheer determination. I can't imagine what it would be like to have such a big before and after event. To still be "me," but not have the same ability to express that in the world. Be it through language, or movement, or possessions, or any number of things. He lived in New York, and he owned a beach house in La Jolla. He was a merchandise planner for a major international retailer. After the stroke, those things weren't part of him anymore. But who he was to work for those things still is. He was athletic and now he has to work diligently to get one side of his body to move. Words used to just come, and now he not only has to think to make each sound he utters, but also sift through a vastly reduced vocabulary for the right words. He doesn't need to be coming to a reading class at a community college, but he only knows one trajectory. Forward. It is inspiring. It is the most amazing kind of strength. 

I've been reading through the Quran. While I know bits and pieces about Islam, I find my knowledge too patchy for my liking. I thought the Quran would be a good start. Right away, I wished I knew Arabic so I could read the original text. I'm not very far in, but I'm already surprised by how many stories I know. Common ground.

I must go to bed now. My brain and my eyes and my sinuses have had enough. 


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