Friday, July 23, 2010

Moganko Tries A Pulmonary Function Test

Joshland Note: Two posts in a week?!?! I've gone mad! Not really, I just wanted share the new Moganko video on my blog. Enjoy!

A lot of people have been asking me "What happened to Moganko?" No worries, boys and girls! Don't put his face on a milk carton just yet. Moganko told me he needed a little summer vacation to unwind (and unstuff?) from the stress of being Moganko. Everybody needs a little break sometimes in order to find themselves again. Puppets are no exception. So off he went to the place where puppets go for vacation...the Land of Whatnot. Maybe someday he'll share the pictures that he took while he was there...

Upon his return to Joshland, Moganko decided to accompany me to my recent CF clinic appointment just to make sure everything was groovy like a drive-in movie. As is the norm at my appointments, I had to do a Pulmonary Function Test (PFT) that shows the doc how my lungs are working. Well, Moganko had seen this test enough times for his curiosity to get the better of him. He whispered in my ear and asked me if he could try it once just to see how it felt. After discussing it with the staff in the PFT lab, they agreed to let him take a shot at it. Here is the video footage of his attempt. Not too bad for a rookie...or a puppet.

You can share these videos on your blogs, on Facebook, wherever you want to, just give me a little credit when you do and we're all good. I want families to find these videos so Moganko can help them learn about CF.

Look for more videos in the coming months, but have patience, my friends. Good things come to those who wait. Until then, check out "Welcome to Joshland on YouTube" to see some of our other episodes.

Joshland Note: My appointment was groovy, by the way. I'm slowly making my way back to normal, though the oppressive humidity and torrential downpours around here have made exercising outside very difficult. I'll get there, but it might take a little longer to do it this time. My doc and I aren't worried.

You can click here to read more about what a PFT test is and see my typical doctor visit in my "A Day At The Doctor" post that I wrote back in March of 2009.

Peaceful and Lung-Testing Things,


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Being A Mentor: My Experience As A "Big Brother" with Big Brothers Big Sisters

Joshland Note: As you read this post you might start wondering "Why there are no pictures of my "Little Brother" and why don't I mention his name on here?" An important part of the Big Brother Big Sister Program is following the "online safety guidelines" that have been set to protect privacy issues of both parties. As his mentor, I feel there are a lot of things about my life that he doesn't need to know quite yet. My "Little" does know about my cystic fibrosis. We talk about it when he asks, but rarely do we go into detail because our relationship is supposed to be focused on him. Just the fact that he asks about me warms my heart. It shows how great he is and makes me that much more dedicated to helping him succeed far past anything I've ever achieved. I'm a "Big Brother", that's my job. ;-)

There are many reasons why I decided to be a "Big Brother" mentor for the Big Brothers Big Sisters program:

For one, if my wife and I decide not to have children, then a small part of my appetite for fatherhood will be satiated by working with this young man. No, it's not the same as being a dad, but it has more similarities than you might realize.

Another reason; what other volunteer program allows you to act like a kid on purpose?! We're always doing something fun like going to the zoo, flying kites, playing video games, or building model rockets and cars. BBBS also provides so much to do without asking for much in return other than being a positive role model and a little donation here and there. Fun activities like free or discounted tickets to sporting events, museums and the like, and the huge end-of-summer BBQ for Bigs and Littles for minimal or no cost to you thanks to generous donations from local businesses and philanthropic individuals.

Furthermore, I realized that if I wanted the world to be a better place, I had to make the effort myself. Mahatma Gandhi said: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Well, I want young people to know that they can set goals and achieve them, so I thought mentoring one child was a good place to start. Big Brothers Big Sisters (and mentoring in general) isn't about "saving" children from their lives. It's about helping them see their potential and rebuilding the confidence and trust they had that, in many cases, was shattered by another adult who they believed in. It's not about the stereotyped "at risk" youth either. There are children in Big Brothers Big Sisters from all walks of life. Some "Littles" are children who supposedly have an "ideal life", but somehow lost their way or are looking for someone to help guide them back on track. Being a mentor is a powerful tool that volunteers can use to help any young person who needs them and in the process strengthen the future of our world.

Which brings me to my main reason for becoming a mentor: I wanted to fulfill a promise I made. This might come as a surprise to my family, but there was a time in my life when I wanted someone outside of my regular circle of loved ones to talk to. Someone who didn't know about my sister's death, or cystic fibrosis, or the other things that overshadowed my teenage years. That's when I asked to be someone's "Little Brother". My Big was a great man and though we didn't have a lot in common, we enjoyed our time together. (In fact, we still have breakfast every once in a while just to catch up.) Our mentoring friendship changed the course of my life. It warmed my heart that a complete stranger cared enough about me to share his precious time. When our match ended I promised him when I was ready I would happily pay forward the gift that he gave to me. So here I am.

Mentoring has pushed me beyond the borders of my own world. Much like my friend Stacey who uses her chosen profession as a social worker and her life experience as a CFer to provide comfort to pediatric cancer patients (click here to read Stacey's awesome story on her blog), I've learned that the world is so much bigger than my little corner of it. And unless I've been through something myself, I don't know what it's like. Those lessons have made me a better man.

In addition to being a "Big Brother", I occasionally volunteer to speak as a "Big Brother Speaker" and share my "Match Story" with potential volunteers in my community during a very casual and inviting orientation to the program. This is a short video that shares a little bit of that presentation.

My whole experience as a "Big" has been a pretty positive thing. We've done a lot of activities and had a lot of wonderful moments. Don't get me wrong, we've certainly had our share of ups and downs, but like both of my grandfathers always told me: Nothing worth doing is ever easy. One of my core beliefs is that time is far more valuable than money. I can't think of a better example of that than Big Brothers Big Sisters. My "Little" has grown to be a great young man. I hope I've made as big of an impact on him as he has on me.

Click on the link below find a Big Brothers Big Sisters organization in your area to volunteer or donate to, then watch the video created BBBS of the Greater Twin Cities.

Big Brothers Big Sisters Official Website

Peaceful and Future Building Things,

"Big Brother" Josh

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Parasailing Without A Helmet...Or A Brain

Joshland Note: This story came from A"Joshland Question" I received from my blogging buddy, Jenna from Jenna's Jargon:

What is the most daredevil thing you've ever done, and did you regret doing it?

Jenna - I promise I'll give you a full answer next post, but this question reminded me of a great story that I had to share with everyone first. It's another ridiculous thing I've done thanks to my best bud, Chad. I can't give him total credit though, since I do have a brain of my own.
This particular event happened during an unsupervised summer weekend. Don't all the best stories from childhood happen when parents are away?:

On a few wonderful summer weekends during my junior high and high school years, Chad invited me to spend some time "up north" at his family's cabin. These were weekends full of county fairs, late night campfires, and maybe a beer or two. Hey, I never said I was a saintly kid, but we never went anywhere after we had beer...I swear! Above all, my favorite thing about the cabin had to be when we were out on the speedboat. We'd be out on the water from lunchtime to sunset, skiing, knee boarding, and inner tubing behind the "Sea Nile", all the while acquiring life jacket tans and filling our ears with the sound of Beastie Boys or Alan Jackson cassette tapes distorting from blown-out boat speakers.

On one particular weekend, Chad and his brothers had procured a parasail to pull behind the boat. The whimsical way my "brothers" described the previous weekend's test run of the parasail were mezmorizing. Soaring 150 feet in the air where there isn't a sound to be heard and where the sun seemed to be within arms reach was something that I was very interested in experiencing. There was one problem: I hate heights. I'm pretty sure this fear stems from childhood near-death experience I had. I was climbing a tree, making my way up branch by branch only to lose my footing and fall back into what I though was certain doom. Thankfully, I hit a large branch that saved me and took the brunt of the first part of my plummet to the earth. That, in turn, decreased the speed of the branch-to-ground portion of my trip, leaving me with a bruised back and a need for clean underwear. Like many fears, I'm sure this fall has been greatly exaggerated in my mind, but that was neither here nor there. My Achilles's heel made me unsure if I was brave enough or stupid enough to attempt this parasailing adventure. Luckily, I have clever friends that talked me into it while walking me toward the speed boat. Aren't they great? Plus, I knew Chad would never put me in harms way.

While we were zooming toward the other side of the lake and the original-but unused boat launch, I got my first look at the parasail. Yes, this was a "real" parasail, but not one of the huge ones you see in travel brochures with a national beer sponsor printed on it and two smiling people being whisked in the air. No sir, this was a rag-tag parachute that looked like it was sewn together by a junior high home ec. class. There were random patches from previous "joyful rides" that clearly went awry. The weirdest thing I noticed was that the entire parachute - which was just used the previous weekend - was covered in a thin layer of dust. It didn't take me long to find out why...

As the boat began to slow down, I looked toward the front to examine the launch area. What I saw was a fifteen foot path of dirt, river rock, gravel, and tree roots surrounded by several summers worth of discarded beer cans and 3 foot cattails on the waters surface. Thank goodness for my sexy and totally un-nerdy Aquasandals, otherwise my feet would have been sliced to ribbons.

We unloaded the parasail onto the boat launch and Chad started to strap me into the harness. The ties and buckles on the harness were strong, but they were also well worn and had begun to fray from nearly every stitch. The parasailing rig I used that day made Straps were tightened. Buckles were snugged. Nothing was given room to adjust. NOTHING. No me gusta. My adrenaline started to rush while Chad and his brother carefully laid the parasail out on top of the gravel.

And now for your amusement, here is the paraphrased and memory-pieced-together "pre-launch briefing/pep talk":

Chad: "Okay, you're all set!" (Thumbs up are given)

Josh: "Where's my helmet?"

Chad "Helmet?"

Josh: "But..."

Chad: (interrupting) "Just listen to me. The parasail is spread out so that as soon as the boat picks up speed, you are going to pop up in the air. Trust me. We did it all last weekend. I know from experience."

Joshland Note: All TWO TIMES that he did it!

Chad continued: "When my brother hits the gas you start running in place so that your feet and legs don't drag on the ground. Just remember the signals: cross your legs if you want to come down and scissor kick if you want to go faster and higher and you'll be fine. Oh and DO NOT TOUCH THE SILVER CLAMP ON YOUR HARNESS!"

Josh: (As the fear causes his body to tremble.) "WHAT?!? Why would my legs drag on the ground?! Isn't this thing supposed to go in the air?! What happens if I touch the clamp?!?! What if I fall? I don't want to fall!"

Chad: "So...DON'T FALL." Only Chad could say that and keep a straight face. For some reason it calmed me down. It SHOULDN'T have calmed me down, but it did. Until the countdown...

Chad: "On the count of three. One..."

My heart was pounding so far out of my chest I had to hold it down and my feet were moving so fast they turned into those little cloud circles that happen when Speedy Gonzales starts revving up his mousey little engine.


Before I could tell him I changed my mind, whooooooSSSHHHHH! I was up in the air!


That is what I would have yelled at him if I hadn't lost the ability to breathe out thanks to the atomic wedgie that I had from the harness and the petrified feeling I had from being plucked right into the air. Once I regained my ability to speak and curse, I started screaming at Chad to get me down. It was reminiscent of the water skiing scene in The Great Outdoors. I believe my words were "I'm going to die up here, you bastard!" which Chad and his brother interpreted as "I want to go higher and faster." Honest mistake. I'm sure of it. So up, up, up I went.

Eventually, I realized that they weren't going to let me down for a while, so I took a moment to admire the view. One the one hand, it sucked. I don't care how pretty you make it, fear is a fear. Even though I try to face it whenever I can, doing so is never fun for me. On the other hand, I do remember a moment of triumph and pride in there, too. Sure, I was in tears and I momentarily lost my ability to manage a sane and rationale thought, but I was doing it, man! I was living the dream!

Okay...done now. Dream lived. Get me down on the ground, please.

I somehow recalled the "signal system" they had devised. I knew it had something to do with my legs, so I just started flailing them in all different directions. I think Chad figured out what I was trying to tell him when he saw me dancing the "Electric Slide" from up in the "wild blue yonder". I landed in the water with a graceful splash and doggy paddled my way to the boat where I was shivering and silent.

"How was it?" Chad asked. I attempted a chattery smile and gave him a thumbs up. On our way back to drier and firmer ground, Chad told me he was proud of me. I kinda was too. I couldn't believe I did it, but looking back now I'm not surprised that I did. I trusted my friend. He was my brother and my hero. I went parasailing for me, but I also did it for him because I wanted him to be proud of me. I guess it's hard to explain why one person would put himself in a precarious position just to make his friend proud of him, but when you are a teenager with few friends to begin with that means you have to work hard to keep the friends that you do have. The loyal friends who are there for you when every other friend disappears from your life. Lucky for me, I never had to worry about loyalty with Chad.

The funniest part about this story is that when some more people showed up later that day and went parasailing, one of them got stuck in a tree during a launch. Maybe that whole "Chad would never put me in harms way" thing was a load of crap. :-) We're just two friends who did (and still do) dumb stuff together. Either way, it makes for a good story.

Peaceful and Stupid, Youthful Things,


What'd You Think?

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Peaceful Things ~ Josh
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