Posted by: paulbassler | April 14, 2013

Losing Weight in a Wheelchair

In 2008 my wife suffered a burst brain aneurysm that left her paralyzed on the right side of her body. It took us a while transitioning our world into a wheelchair lifestyle and learning what we could and could not do. For me, as her primary caregiver, I had to learn to bath her, groom her, change diapers, avoid bed sores, move her from her bed to the wheelchair to the car, and to cook. I also had to learn how to keep the house clean, and do laundry. In the beginning it was hard to imagine how this one tragic event would change our lives forever.
With the love of my life limited to a wheelchair, my goal has been to find ways for her to enjoy living. At first, it seemed like eating was about the only thing she could enjoy. As the one bringing her food each day, I found myself trying to make her happy by providing her with the food she like to eat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the healthiest diet and after a couple of years she gained over 100 pounds. She didn’t seem to mind the weight gain, since she enjoyed the ice cream (her favorite), candy, potato chips and other junk food I provided. One day, however, she saw herself in the mirror, fully unclothed, and was astounded. She started talking about going on a diet. We also saw a news report one day about a woman who was also confined to a wheelchair and ended up gaining over 700 pounds. Even though this scared by wife, it was not enough to stop her from graving the foods she enjoyed eating.
Then one day I got a hernia trying to move her around and we both realized we have to find a way to reduce her weight. I started looking for diets that might work for a disabled person who is unable to exercise, but found nothing. I spoke to a nutritionist, but all she said was limit my wife to less than 1500 calories per day. We actually did better than that. We cut her daily calorie intake to less than 1200, but still she did not lose weight.
Prior to my wife’s stroke, several years ago, we both tried the low-carb diet with great success. Back then, I was able to lose 40 lbs., and my wife lost 30 lbs. Now back then we were able to add exercise to our diet. Since we did have good luck with the low-carb diet in the past, we decided to try it again. With the Atkins Diet, phase one of the four-phase program is to eat 20 or less carbs per day. Once you start getting close to your ideal weight, you can begin to add more carbs through fruit and vegetables.
In order to meet our 20-carb a day goal, I designed a diet that we would eat each day. For breakfast, we would have two eggs, a half a strawberry, a slice of turkey bacon, one sausage link, and a small slice of mozzarella cheese. Eventually my wife cut back to one egg. For lunch, we would have a small salad consisting of Romaine lettuce, five black olives, cheese chunks, chicken chunks, a small slice of celery, a slice of dill pickle, a little cabbage and sugar-free dressing. For evening snack, we would have a few pieces of sugar-free candy, a half of strawberry, a half ounce of beef jerky, a small bowl of Jello, a few almonds and a half Atkins sugar-free snack bar. That’s it, our daily diet.
My wife began her diet in July and as of today she has lost sixty-six pounds. I began in January and have lost twenty-two pounds. No more ice cream, no more potato chips, no more bread, noodles, fast food or a million other things we used to love to eat. There are a number of other low-carb items we eat from time to time, such as broccoli, spinach, chicken, steak and other meats. Mostly, however, we have stuck to the daily diet I described. My wife has decided to get down to her pre-stroke weight of 150 lbs. Since her peak weight was 256 lbs., that would mean a total loss of over 100 lbs.
The weight loss she has already experienced has made caring for her much easier, and she feels better as well. My own weight loss has helped me feel better and given me more stamina to meet the challenges of my work day. Once we reach our target weight, the goal will be to maintain that weight and not fall back into the same old habits. I do hope to be able to have a small bowl of spaghetti someday, or a slice of pizza. I am hoping when that day comes, I learn what the term “moderation” means.
I can’t say our low-carb diet will work for everyone, but it is working for us. Even though I do get a great deal of exercise each day, my wife does not, and she is losing weight consistently every week. She had some blood work done not long ago and her cholesterol numbers and blood sugar numbers were good. Aside from her paralysis, she is in good health and feeling great. So if you are facing similar challenges, especially being unable to get much exercise each day, you might try a low-carb diet. But as they say in the commercials, you might want to discuss it with your doctor before you do.

Posted by: paulbassler | April 10, 2013

History Repeats Itself

With the recent death of former Prime Minister of Britain, Margaret Thatcher, it brings to mind the vast difference between those who believe in big government and those who believe in the private sector. When Thatcher took office in 1979, Britain had a 13% unemployment rate. By the end of her eight years of governance, the employment rate dropped to 5.5%. Prior to Thatcher’s administration, Britain was deep in debt due to the rule of the Socialist party. Britain was drowning in big government, and throughout Thatcher’s administration, Britain’s first and only female Prime Minister worked to reduce the size of government, build a strong private sector economy, break the power of the unions, build a strong military defense and lower taxes. Due to her successful efforts, Britain was able to restore its economy, get out of debt, raise family income and restore its power and respect on the world stage.
It is not hard to see the comparison between the U.S. today and Great Britain back in 1979 (and today for that matter). Today, the U.S. is so far in debt we can’t see daylight. The Democrat’s budget calls for more taxes and more spending. Unemployment in the U.S. is near 14%, if you take into account the number of people who have given up looking for work. Our military is losing funding and strength, our influence in the world is fading, and more people are on food stamps and living in proverty than any time in our history.
When Prime Minister Thatcher was fighting for change in Great Britain, the liberals and socialists vilified her, both in Britain and in the U.S. After all, if you give the country back to the people the socialists and liberals loose power, loose their high paying jobs. With a strong private sector economy, the people have power over their own lives and the government works for the people.
The United States became the most powerful country in the world in a short period of time due to its commitment to a government of the people, by the people and for the people. The U.S. built the greatest economy in the world due to the private sector, not the government. Is it any surprise that America’s growing weakness comes as our government continues to grow.
Socialists and liberals profess to care for the grass roots, the down trodden, the helpless. Yet their policies are designed to keep people dependent upon the state, assuring the power of the state in the process. As Ronald Reagan once told Americans, “government is not the solution to our problem, it is the problem.” Both Reagan and Thatcher used conservative fiscal policies to build strong independent countries. Both led their countries during the most successful financial prosperity in recent history. Even Bill Clinton, who tried big government policies during his first four years, eventually determined “the era of big government is over” in his second term, yielding, after tax reform and tax rate reduction, another successful and striving economy.
President Kennedy’s famous speech when he said, “ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,” has been replaced by liberal ideology. The rich people are too rich, and that is not fair. The liberals, led by President Obama, want to make the rich pay a little more, and a little more, and a little more. They do not seem to recognize what history has taught us. The more you take from the rich, the fewer jobs are created and the slower the economy grows. The Reagan era saw record tax dollars making it to Washington, not from increased taxes, but from a vibrant and active private sector economy.
It seems clear that the Obama administration believes that they can “invest” the people’s money better than the people can. History does not support that belief. Social Security is nearly bankrupt, as is Medicare and Medicaid. Every program big government manages is mismanaged. History has proven that the profit motive is far more efficient than a benevolent government.
Using our vote and personal influence, let’s get our fiscal house in order. Let’s talk to our family and friends about the importance of personal freedom, the need to stay informed, the wisdom of being independent creators of our own world. Government is like any entity. The more you feed it the bigger it grows. Socialists and liberals want us to believe that by giving them our money, giving them the power over our lives, they will make sure we are cared for and life will be fair. In truth, we will become dependent, less confident in our own abilities, more willing to take than to give. Do we want to be sheep or sheep herders? The choice is ours.

Posted by: paulbassler | April 7, 2013

Growing in the Four Seasons

After living in the tropics for nearly forty years I got used to growing my gardens all year long. With a rainy season and a dry season, it was easy to grow most any warm-weather crop nine months of the year. The remaining three months were just too rainy for most crops, but there were a number of plants that could survive. Hot peppers were one of my favorites, but eggplant was also popular during those rainy months.
Living in Oregon these past couple of years, I have really been enjoying the four seasons. It’s as if nature is always in motion, drifting from one season to the next. In an attempt to learn how to grow flowers and food throughout the ever-changing seasons, I planted a wide variety of fruit trees, herbs and annuals last year in my greenhouse. I really wanted to see how the 20 degree and 30 degree temperatures during the winter would impact the growing process. I learned a great deal this past year, and I learned that there is still much to learn.
The first thing I had to learn when planting fruit trees from seed was the need to cold stratify the seeds. Obviously in the tropics, this is not needed. I started by bagging up the various varieties of apple seeds I purchased in moist peat moss and put them in the refrigerator. Most of the varieties began to sprout within a couple of weeks. Some varieties took a couple of months. I tried stratifying some thornless blackberry seeds, and I tried planting some directly in the ground. That was in September. The seeds I put in the fridge never did sprout, but the ones I planted in the ground began to sprout in early February.
Most everything I planted, both flowers and food plants, survived the cold weather well. It’s as if they go dormant during the cold months and start waking up when the weather warms. It’s April now and everything is growing with reckless abandon. Nature is really amazing. Outside the greenhouse, all of nature is doing the same thing. After sitting dormant for the past few months, everything is coming alive. It’s really amazing to see the whole world waking up as each day passes. And yet, after everything comes back to full bloom, full foliage, the next season begins to creep in. The leaves begin to slowly fall. The landscape begins to look more barren. Before you know it, there is snow everywhere. It’s never-ending and a beautiful thing to watch, and it’s fun to be a part of that process in my greenhouse.
I’ve also noticed there is a lot more insect activity during the spring. For months during the winter I haven’t seen any bugs. But now, they’re everywhere. I can only guess that they too go dormant during the winter and start to come alive when the weather warms. In the tropics, the bugs are always there.
Growing a successful garden in the four seasons is much like preparing a meal. When you cook a meal, say a chicken dinner, there is a tight schedule you have to keep in order for everything to be ready at the same time. If you’re going to have mashed potato, you have to start the potatoes first. Then a bit later you put the chicken in the oven. Sometime later, you put your vegetables on the stove. In your garden, you have to start preparing your soil first, stratify some of your seeds weeks or months in advance, plant your vegetables on a rotating schedule so everything doesn’t grow to fruition at the same time. Fertilizing and pest management have to be scheduled. Your compost pile has to be ready when needed. Everything has to be scheduled to coordinate with the ever-changing environment. It takes a lot more planning to grow in the four seasons then it does in the tropics. Perhaps like so many I will one day take the four seasons for granted. For now, I am really appreciating the ever-changing face of our natural environment.

Posted by: paulbassler | March 26, 2013

Growing Organically In The Tropics

It was back in the early 70s when I saw my first organic garden. I was visiting a friend in Port Angeles, Washington, and though I cannot remember which friend I was visiting, I can still see the beautiful garden his wife had created. It had a white picket fence, was fully mulched and had vegetables hanging on every plant. I was hooked.
Shortly after that trip to Washington I moved to Guam. For those who don’t know, Guam is a beautiful tropical island located in an area known as the Pacific Rim. A three hour flight to Japan, five hour flight to the Philippines, Thailand and Australia, Guam is a U.S. territory where “America’s Day Begins.” For the next thirty-nine years, I made Guam my home.
Being a tropical environment, the temperature on Guam never gets below 70 degrees or higher than 90 degrees. In the tropics you don’t have four seasons. Instead, you have six months of dry season and six months of rainy season, though sometimes it is hard to tell the difference. During the dry season, humidity is down, the trade winds are constant and every day is barbeque weather. It is the ideal growing season. During the rainy season, you still get many beautiful sunny days, though monsoons are common, typhoons occasionally swing by and the humidity feels like a blanket of wet air. The heavy rains during the rainy season make it difficult to grow many of the common vegetables, but there are still many things to grow in the garden year around, as long as you allow for drainage.
My wife and I always had food growing in the yard. When we first bought our property, a half-acre on the southern side of the island, we planted a variety of fruit trees, including mango, banana, guava, lemon, lime, cherry trees and more. During the dry season, our garden would provide us with tomato, cucumber, watermelon, cantaloupe, onions, broccoli, cabbage, hot peppers, bell peppers and more. We always grew organically, but ran into challenges that were hard to solve.
I remember my early gardens when I would put seedlings in the ground only to find them destroyed the following day. It took me a while to discover that land crabs were responsible. Guam has these land crabs that bore holes in the soil that made our fence useless. I tried filling the holes with water, but I got the impression that there were miles of caves under the ground and the water had little effect. I tried looking in my organic gardening books and magazines for a solution to no avail. I checked online, but still could not find anyone facing the same problem. There is lots of pest management information out there, but not that much for the kind of pests you find in the tropics. I finally asked other farmers and gardeners on Guam about the land crabs and learned what to do. You get a foot-long piece of bamboo the same diameter as the hole in the ground, which was about the size of a baseball. Bamboo has segments throughout the stalk, so you cut a piece open at one end and sectioned off on the other. At the open end, you take a tin can top, like a top from a tuna can. You put a small hole at the top of the tin and attach it with wire or string to the lip of the bamboo with the tin angled into the bamboo. Essentially you are making a one-way door. At the sealed end of the bamboo, you put a hole about the size of a quarter. Place the bamboo down in the hole with the one-way door on the bottom. At night, when the crab comes out, he walks through the one-way door and gets trapped. Using this method, I not only stopped the crabs from destroying my garden, but caught enough crabs for a great crab meal.
The tropics have a lot of bugs and pests not found anywhere else. You also find many of the common pests, such as aphids, beetles, grasshoppers and other troublesome insects. Many of the organic pest management techniques used throughout the states work well on Guam. One of the best pest management tools I used on my tropical garden was hot peppers and water. Guam has an indigenous hot pepper, known as Doni, that is so hot it will burn a hole in your skin if you get it on you. That may be a slight exaggeration, but it is really hot. I would soak some Doni in water for a couple of days and spray my plants with it. This worked extremely well on ants that were living in my corn plants.
Other organic techniques used in the tropics include banana leaves and coconut husk as mulch. Neem oil is also a popular pest resister and is also used on the mainland. The Neem tree grows in the tropics, making it beneficial to have growing near the garden.
Organic growing is more than not using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides. Organic growing is about being a part of the natural process. Growing in a tropical environment is different than growing in all the other zones, therefore many of the solutions to the challenges of organic growing in the tropics will come from the tropical environment. If you have discovered organic techniques found in your unique growing zone, please share. To support your organic garden, please visit

Posted by: paulbassler | March 20, 2013

The Universal Self

I believe there is an old Chinese saying, “may you live in interesting times.” I think it is fair to say that all times throughout human history have been interesting. Though there have been different challenges, different events, different social issues, different wars and different crisis throughout human history, there are many things we have in common with our ancestors and those who are living today. As human beings, we have all experienced pain, both physical and emotional. We have all experienced fear and love, though each individual often experiences a greater abundance of one or the other. Jealousy, insecurity, anger, friendship, compassion, irritation, inspiration and so much more are all a part of the human experience and we all experience these things to various degrees.
Even though we are all experiencing the same range of emotional, mental and physical aspects of physical reality, we all feel that our life experience is personal, unlike any others, unique. It is the individual way we navigate our lives through the wide range of emotional, mental and physical aspects of life that does indeed make each of us unique. At the same time, since we are all experiencing the same thing we are all the same, even though we experience things in different ways. It is our unique experiences on the same aspects of life that lead people to separate themselves from others. You might call this the us and them syndrome. In truth, there is no us and them…there is only us.
Imagine a universal spirit, the Holy Spirit, a consciousness of self that lives in all things. Now imagine this universal consciousness, in its yearning to experience itself, manifests itself in billions, trillions of different ways. Even though the great universal consciousness is manifested in an unlimited number of ways in physical reality, it is still one consciousness. Each aspect of that universal consciousness experiences itself separate and apart from all other aspects of physical reality, but in truth, everything is a manifestation of the one. That would mean that our own awareness of self is the same awareness of self that exists in all that is.
In my view of reality, this is God. This is the God-Self, the universal consciousness, the “I am” that lives in all that is. Being that the God-Self lives in all of us, there are ways to experience this universal consciousness, to feel your unity with this consciousness, to be one with the God-Self. We have a simple word describing our connection to the one self. It’s called unity. When we feel unity with anything outside of ourselves, we are experiencing our connection to the one self. God is unity and unity is love.
Since the reality of our existence is unity or love, when we experience unity or love we feel the joy of that union. On the flip side, when we feel separated from the world, from each other, from everything outside ourselves, we feel fear, sadness, loneliness, confusion and pain. The illusion of our reality is that we are separate from one another and from all things. It is an illusion we have created on purpose, since there is no other way to experience the one self. How can we experience love if fear does not exist? How can we experience happiness if sadness does not exist? The illusionary world we are creating exists to provide a platform to not only know who we are, but to be able to experience who we are.
The evolution of mankind has gone from living in tribes and caves, separate and apart from one another, to a world where advancements in transportation and communication have unified the world like never before. We are evolving from the illusion of our separateness to the reality of our unity. We are doing this as individuals and in mass. As individuals, we each have the ability to choose whether we want to facilitate the unification of mankind, or focus on the illusion of our separateness. As the advancements of transportation and communication have grown over the centuries, so has the fear of losing one’s unique identity. As people and their cultures fight to maintain their separateness and uniqueness from the whole, mankind’s destructive ability has grown. We now have the power to destroy all mankind. Each of us has the ability to choose. Do we want to live in peace and solidify our unity through our awareness of the one self, or destroy ourselves in our defense of our individual uniqueness? United we stand, divided we fall. Don’t be fooled by the illusion…love is all there is.

Posted by: paulbassler | March 6, 2013

The Evolution of Consciouness

Over the past few months, I have written extensively about the impact my wife’s burst brain aneurysm had on our lives. Though the physical disabilities resulting from her stroke have created many challenges, one of my greatest fascinations has been the evolution of my wife’s consciousness over the past five years.
It is very clear to me that the woman I married forty-one years ago is not the same woman I am living with today, if you define who we are by the characters we project. The woman I married was shy, soft spoken, and had a relatively low self-esteem. At the same time, she was loving, loyal, smart, hard-working, and really cared about the health and happiness of others. She would never allow having her picture to be taken and would never sing out-loud.
After the brain surgery that tied off the aneurysm and saved her life she literally had no concept of self. In those first few days and weeks after she awoke, she didn’t know who I was, or her son, as we visited her each day. She didn’t know who she was. She was just there, looking around the hospital room as if she was just born. Her attention turned to every sound, every motion and the look on her face was astonishment, surprise, innocence and curiosity.
A month or so after her surgery, they removed the trachea tube from her throat and we all waited patiently to see if she could speak. One morning, as the nurse and I rolled my wife over to change her diaper, my face was just inches away from her face when I heard her say softly, “ouch.” I immediately began to cry. It took several more days before she spoke another word, which was “good morning,” when I showed up for my morning visit. As the weeks went on, she would add one or two words a week to her vocabulary.
As the days went on I began to bring pictures of her family to her to find out if she recognized anyone. At first, she did not. Hospital therapists would come in to test her cognitive abilities. In the beginning, she did not know the difference between yes and no, and could not remember what a ball was, a hamburger or dozens of other common items.
She spent three months in the hospital and over that time she slowly began to remember. Before we left the hospital, she did recognize the photos of her family, even distant family members, though she still had little memory of the details of her life. She also did not have short term memory, as she could not remember things that happened just seconds earlier. For a time I put her in a nursing home after leaving the hospital, which is a story itself. In short, our insurance company did not want to pay for that, and the director of the facility seemed to be aligned with the insurance company. The director, who wanted to prove to me that she did not belong there, gave my wife a test. He asked her what my name is…she did not know. He asked her to sing Happy Birthday…she could not. So he turned to me and said she has serious brain damage and there was nothing they could do. I mentioned to him that her surgeon told me she could continue to improve over time, but the director said the surgeon was only telling me something I wanted to here. It was his experience, he said, that she would not see much improvement in the months and years ahead. I was furious that he would say such a thing and wrote a complaint letter to the hospital.
Over the past five years, my wife’s long term memory has nearly fully returned, as has her short term memory. Though she has her long term memory, she only uses it when asked to. Mostly she lives in the moment. She is still very child-like in her view of the world. She loves her life and is grateful for every moment in it. She can not only sing Happy Birthday, she sings all the great rock and roll songs of the 60s and 70s, and isn’t shy at all when she does. As the years have gone by, she continues to become more and more self-aware, but she doesn’t have the typical ego. She isn’t trying to be someone special. She doesn’t try to draw attention to herself. She speaks what is on her mind and notices the little things around her. As the old saying goes, we should stop and smell the roses. Well, she lives in the rose garden and is enjoying every minute of it. She is a constant reminder to me that life is lived in the now. There is really nothing more. She doesn’t worry about money, about anything. She has complete faith that everything is going to be alright. She is living at a different level of consciousness. It’s a simple place, an innocent place, a peaceful place, a happy place.
Admittedly, sometimes I miss having an “adult” conversation, or sharing some of the complicated issues I entertain from time to time. But she just brings me back to the moment. There are others in my life I can be a grown up with and allow my ego to do its dance. But I don’t have to dance for my wife. She loves me just the way I am and loves her life even with her physical disabilities. One day I would like to take my wife back to that nursing home and ask her to sing the director a song. It probably won’t change his demeanor much, but it would sure make me feel better.

Posted by: paulbassler | February 27, 2013

Don’t Be a Mark

Sequestration, here we go again. Another crisis, doom and gloom, the world is coming to an end. If you believe what you are hearing in the news, Armageddon is about to fall and the only ones who can save us is the rich. That’s right, according to the President and the media. All we have to do is remove the tax loopholes for the rich and we will make it to the promise land. If the government can’t get that money from the rich, we are all going to die.
It is very unfortunate that the majority of Americans do not know what sequestration is. It’s a shame that most Americans don’t seem to be paying attention to what their political leaders are doing. It’s more than a shame, it’s scary. America is like a frog in hot water. If you take a frog and put it in boiling water, it will immediately jump out. But if you put that frog in a pot of cool water and slowly heat the water, the frog will remain until it dies. Most Americans don’t seem to pay attention to the erosion of their freedoms as the government continues to grow in power and size. Our government is so intent on expanding its role in the lives of American citizens that it is willing to borrow over 40 cents of every dollar it spends. The water is beginning to heat up, and if we don’t jump away from our current path, we will lose what we value most…our freedom.
The weird thing is, sequestration doesn’t even cut the size of our federal government. All it does is slow down the projected growth in the federal budget. In fact, even if sequestration goes through on March 1st, our government is still going to spend more this year than they did last year. To those who are trying to grow the size and power of the government, any cut, even in the projected increase in the budget, is a loss and therefore detrimental to America.
Dear neighbors, please wake up and smell the coffee. In the language of grifters, we are the Johns, the marks. As you may know through your TV shows, grifters are con artists, scam artists, and the Johns and marks are the victims of their cons. Politics is no longer about having good ideas for the country, leading the country through actions and principles, it is a game of sales. Americans are used to be sold products and ideas, and our leaders employ some of the best salesman in the business to develop sales campaigns designed to get people to believe what they want them to believe. In the recent presidential election, the President had a much better sales team than their opponents and the American people, by majority vote, bought the sales pitch.
Instead of running on a record of accomplishment, the President was sold as a rock star. Instead of addressing the high unemployment rate, the growing debt, the deficit, the growing entitlement trend, the President visited the View, MTV, the Letterman Show and other similar venues where the toughest questions he faced was what is your favorite color. The democrats know how to sell a product better than the Republicans. These political sales teams know that the American people get their truths from television, a bias media, movie celebrities and the internet. Every day we sit and watch TV commercials and allow professional sales teams try to sell us their products. They try to convince us that their product will change our lives, make us happy, replace our pain with pleasure and help make our lives better. They use great props, such as sex, smiling people, testimonials and a million other things. Throughout our entire lives we have been bombarded by people trying to separate us from our money. The only difference with politics is that those sales teams are trying to separate us from our freedom.
The current administration believes in big government and the goal of the President’s sales team is to convince America to buy in. Their sales team is working to convince the average American that rich people are selfish, evil, oppressive, and they shouldn’t get to live well while others are struggling. They are trying to convince us that the federal government can do more good with rich people’s money than they can. If you are going to buy in to the administrations’ sales pitch, make sure you are a smart consumer and you know exactly what you are buying.
Think about it. Our government has been unable to manage its money, live within its means, run any program with efficiency and effectiveness, yet it believes it can “invest” our money better than successful entrepreneurs. Our current administration is trying to convince the American people that all rich people do is collect their riches, keep it under their beds and break it out once in a while to throw it in the air and marvel at their accomplishments. In truth, people who have money spend money, and the more they have the more they spend. They start new businesses, hire more people, buy new cars, new houses, more stuff, and as they do, they grow the American economy. If they have enough money, they support those causes and charities that closely touches their hearts. Nearly every charity exists on the strength of loving people with the means to give. Do we really want our government to take that freedom away?
Let’s stop being a John, stop being a mark. Let’s try to make our decisions based on an educated understanding of the issues. Don’t accept bad ideas dressed in a pretty face. Freedom for the individual is what propelled this country from thirteen separate states to the strongest, most powerful country in the world.

Posted by: paulbassler | February 26, 2013

Adjusting to Disabilities

In May of 2008, my wife of thirty-six years suffered a burst brain aneurysm that left her paralyzed on the right side of her body. It cost us nearly every penny we owned to save her life, even with medical insurance coverage, and thank God she did survive. Though she can speak well enough, she cannot move her right arm or leg. As you can imagine, this event changed our lives forever. Prior to her stroke we had plans, lots of plans. Since then, the time we used to spend dreaming and planning are now spent learning how to survive. For nearly five years now, we have been in survival mode, trying to figure out how to accomplish the simplest things, like getting in and out of bed, taking showers, getting out of the house and dealing with incontinence.
The first thing we learned when trying to adjust to our new life with disabilities was that medical supplies and equipment are outrageously expensive. Medical science has developed a number of helpful things for the disabled, like power chairs, adjustable hospital beds, hydraulic hoists and car lifts. The only problem is, each of these items costs an arm and a leg, no pun intended. Our first challenge, once we were out of the hospital trying to start our lives over, was car access devices. When it comes to cars, I really couldn’t find any automated way to get my wife in and out of a car. In order to adjust, we had to sell our cars and buy a van. I wish we could have afforded a van designed for the disabled, but those were way out of our price range. You can get a van with a hydraulic lift, so your loved one can simply role on to the lift and into the van, assuming the roof of the van is high enough to handle a person sitting in a wheelchair. You can also get a regular van and have it modified. One company I visited will lower the floor of our van, remove the passenger seat and make it handicap friendly. All they wanted was $17,000.
Most recently, our biggest challenge has been to try and weigh my wife. This past summer my wife suffered a mild heart attack and during her one week stay at the hospital we learned she had gained nearly 100 lbs. since her stroke. Obviously, my wife’s weight had become a big problem since she was confined to a wheelchair. One of the few pleasures she has in life is eating, but without the capability to work off the calories she gained weight very rapidly. Over the past several months, we have begun a serious diet, limiting calories and carbs and the amount of food we eat each day. The only problem has been our inability to weigh her in order to see if our diet is working. I looked up wheelchair scales on the internet, only to find price tags ranging from $2,000 to $3,000.
In trying to solve this problem, I came up with a plan. I bought a fish scale for about $55. It’s the long hanging scale that can measure weights up to 300lbs. I was able to attach the scale to our hydraulic hoist (used to move her from bed to wheelchair) and all we have to do is hoist her up and read her weight. Today was the first time we were able to weigh her in months and it turns out she has lost fifty pounds on our new diet. With the addition of a few smaller accessories used to attach the scale to the hoist, the entire cost of our weighing system was about $90. It could also have been done by using a pulley system from a roof beam, using the fish scale, which is what I was going to do if the hoist didn’t work.
Over the past five years, we’ve learned to adjust our lives to deal with my wife’s disability. From building a shower capable of holding a shower chair; to building 20 ft. ramps leading to our front and back doors; to putting a swivel pad in the car for rotating her into the passenger seat; to buying a floor pad for the van that allows us to change her when traveling long distance, we have adjusted our lives in many ways. Though we have come a long way, there is still so much more we hope to get done in the months and years ahead. Since we are limited on funds, we have to use ingenuity. It’s a different life than we once foresaw, but it is life and we are finding ways to enjoy it.
Our new life experiences have given me a new appreciation for what many people have had to do in order to care for their disabled loved ones. I can only imagine what their ingenuity has produced. It’s wonderful to see what medical science has created, but for those who cannot afford expensive medical equipment, I am sure that many have found inexpensive functional alternatives that have helped to improve their lives. If you have figured out some inexpensive solutions to your caregiving challenges for a disabled loved one, please email me at and share, or provide comments at my blog site,

Posted by: paulbassler | February 19, 2013

Are We a Part of Nature

The American Heritage Dictionary defines nature in a number of ways, including: (1) The world of living things and the outdoors: the beauties of nature. (2) A primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization or artificiality. There appears to be a conflict between these definitions. If nature is the world of living things and is a primitive state of existence, untouched and uninfluenced by civilization, then what is mankind? Are we a part of nature or is nature that which is untouched and uninfluenced by man?
I think for most of us, things that are natural are things that exist and are sustained without the assistance of man. When advertisers tell us that the ingredients in their new drink are completely natural, they are implying that the product was not made in a lab, is not man-made. When seeds grow into plants, a lion kills and eats a deer, a shooting star streaks across the night sky, we define these as natural events, untouched and uninfluenced by mankind. Nature, as a whole, is self-sustaining, though some natural events can be very destructive. The ice age, which destroyed life on earth as it was at the time, was very destructive, though life itself did survive.
One thing that seems to set mankind apart from all other aspects of nature is our ability to choose. We can be self-sustaining or we can choose to be self-destructive. Since we were born with that ability to choose, does that mean that man’s ability to choose is a part of universal nature? If the nature of mankind is a part of universal nature, then the self-sustainability of nature is a choice, not a given. Mankind can choose to put too many toxins in our soil, robbing it of its natural ability to grow plants. Mankind can choose to pollute our rivers and lakes making them incapable of sustaining aquatic life. Mankind can choose to be a destructive force on nature, a preserver of nature, or even a partner to nature. When scientists alter the genetics within seeds in order to produce bigger fruit, it could be said we are partnering with nature, though many are not convinced that meddling with genetics is healthy or wise. When farmers use synthetic fertilizers and pesticides in order to help make their crops grow bigger and faster they are actually doing an injustice to the nature of the soil, as over time the soil loses its ability to grow anything. At times mankind believes they can do nature better than nature. Stupidity at best, arrogance at worst.
If the nature of nature is its innate ability to sustain itself, then man can choose to be “unnatural,” at least at the universal level. Some would say that it is mankind’s nature to be destructive, to wage war, to put his own interests above others. They say it is mankind’s nature to be selfish. Yet there are those who choose peace over war, compassion over vindictiveness, the health and safety of others over themselves. So what is man’s true nature? In fact, man can choose his nature. He can choose to put universal nature above his own or destroy nature for his own self interest.
Is it a part of human nature for men and women to be physically attracted to others of the same sex? Is it human nature for a woman to seek an abortion to stop an unwanted pregnancy? Is it human nature to kill someone who has taken the life of another? Inasmuch as mankind can choose his own nature the bigger questions are: Can you be happy in a world that accepts homosexuality, abortion or capital punishment? What kind of a world do you want to live in? Unlike all the other parts of nature, mankind is the creator of his nature, of his own reality.
Since we seem to have the power to choose our own nature, is it possible to use universal nature to guide our choices? What can we learn from universal nature to help us make better choices for ourselves or our society. As mentioned, universal nature is self-sustaining. With that in mind, are the choices you have made in your life leading toward the sustainability of your life and the life of society? Have the choices our nation has made led to our nation’s ability to sustain itself, and have our choices help lead to the sustainability of all nations? Is your life experience working as nature works, or have your choices led you to unhappy endings? How about our decisions on a national level? Have they led to a more stable world?
I believe, in the end, our own inner nature is a part of universal nature and if we listen to our inner selves we will make choices that work. It’s when we make choices based on self interest, not taking into account the impact those choices may have on others, we find ourselves making unnatural choices, which often leads to undesired consequences. In short, in order for us to be a part of nature, we have to choose to be. If we do choose the nature of our inner selves, the world of man will begin to reflect the universal nature that sustains us.

Posted by: paulbassler | February 11, 2013

Benevolent Government or Rugged Individualism

Aside from the war on terror, the United States Government is at war with itself. At stake is the course and security of America. In what is commonly known as the “left,” or “liberal” governance philosophy, it is said that we the people need a big benevolent government that uses the power of the collective to “take care” of the populace. Those in this camp of thinking believe that people need to be protected from the rich and powerful and government is in the unique position to “even the playing field,” “distribute the country’s wealth,” and guide people in their search for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Those on the “right,” or “conservatives,” believe in rugged individualism. They believe is a small central government, with more governance provided at the state level. They believe in the American dream, where the harder you work, the better your lifestyle can be. Conservatives don’t believe in punishing the rich and successful as these entrepreneurs are responsible for creating new business, growing the economy and giving more opportunities to others seeking their own American dream.
Historically, America has been like a big ship at sea, moving to the left at times, then to the right. When conservative economic policies rule the day and the economy grows, liberal leaders tend to use the surplus funds to create new social programs. When the liberal policies are leading government policy and the economy begins to weaken, conservatives fight back by moving to reduce government control, reduce taxes and stimulate the economy.
One of the problems with liberal governance is that even with the best intentions, government is not always benevolent. Take the Social Security program as an example. The idea that the government will take some of the money we earn each month and hold it for us until we reach retirement age is, in its face, a good idea. Unfortunately, our leaders over the years have spent the money they were supposed to hold on our behalf and the Social Security funds are gone. Today, the money taken in from people in the workforce is being used to pay those who have reached retirement and are due their payments. Even more troubling, there isn’t enough money coming in to pay the government’s obligation, threatening the programs viability in the future. The same is true of the Medicare program, which is also in deficit.
There does seem to be a balance between these two governing philosophies. It’s the kind of balance all of us who have families and try to navigate our budgets throughout our lives try to strike. It’s a balance between what we would like versus what we can afford. Government programs funded by the power of the collective can be beneficial to the social health of our country. We are a stronger nation when we can help our elderly, our disabled and those who are unable to care for themselves. Whatever we can afford to do, we should do. Affordability, however, is the key. Social programs have to have the funds. That doesn’t mean the promise of funds, it means we have to have the money. Just as we as individuals have to have the money to pay for quality health services for our parents or grandparents, or pay for medical equipment for a handicapped child. There is so much we would all like to do for our families, neighbors and fellow countrymen, but we cannot do more than what we can afford.
Today, our country is weakened by decades of overspending and bad fiscal policies. This weakness lessens our ability to help ourselves, let alone to help others. Today’s battle at the highest levels of government is attempting to right the ship, bring us back to prosperity, give us the strength to do what our hearts urge us to do. Before we can help others, we have to help ourselves. We have to get out of debt, stop the deficit spending, stop using the people’s money to support special interests and learn to live within our means. That is what we have to do as individuals and that is what we have to do as a collective. Once we become fiscally healthy, we can turn to the debate about what can we do to help provide for health, safety and prosperity of our country.

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