Jul 212013

Mike wearing GoPro

Here I am wearing my new camera. I just have to be careful not to nod my head if somebody waves to me!

Every time I think I have hit upon a pastime that I can continue to pursue despite the progression of my illness, I discover how wrong I was. When I was forced to give up work, I took up painting. That lasted for 10 years until my arms and hands became too weak to guide a brush. So I decided to take up writing a blog. But that meant I had to overcome the weakness of my fingers – fortunately voice-recognition was improving and it is a pretty good substitute. However the other part of writing a blog is photography. Over the past few months my hands and arms have become too weak to hold the camera or cell phone and press a shutter. Since part of my new “job” now that I am living at Huntington Manor assisted living is maintaining their website and blog, photography is a very important part of my work. I was about ready to throw up my hands and quit (except I cannot throw up my hands anymore) but then I was watching a NASCAR race and one of the cars was sponsored by GoPro. I had heard the name before and knew that it was some kind of camera system, so I looked it up on the Internet. I discovered that the GoPro was a very compact camera that had been designed by surfers to allow them to make videos of their rides. It soon spread in popularity and was used by skateboarders, skiers, model airplane builders, free base jumpers, and just about anyone who wished to make a video record of their exploits. It came with a waterproof housing of course but that did not interest me so much. What really caught my attention was both its light weight and the fact that it could be controlled remotely using an iPhone app.

I visited my favorite store (Amazon.com), read about the various models and ordered the GoPro Black, the one with the highest resolution. I also ordered the special mounting system that goes around the head. Now I have a camera system that I can take with me without having to hold it in my hands, and I control all of its functions from my iPhone resting on my lap. I have been using it for a couple of weeks now and have already produced a major video for Huntington Manor as well as taking the number of other photographs. It does not have a zoom, but it has the capability of taking very high resolution video, double the size of high-definition, which means that I can use video editing software to zoom in on sections that I have shot, without winding up with fuzzy, pixelated video. Below are my first videos produced using this camera.

I have included this link to the GoPro camera description on Amazon in case anyone is interested in getting one for themselves. There are three different models, but I highly recommend getting the highest resolution “Black” model which would then allow zooming in postproduction.

This is a video I made about the Huntington Manor Summer Picnic. It includes the food preparation in the kitchen as well as the event itself. All the video was shot with the GoPro camera, and edited using Final Cut Pro Xon my iMac. The background music was created using Band in a Box, The only way I can create music these days is using that program. I can use one finger to type in the chords and a simple melody and it does the rest.

Here is another video shot with the GoPro. I placed it near the bird feeders at Huntington Manor and from a distance waited for the goldfinches to arrive and then started the camera recording. The video was shot at 120 frames per second to produce the slow-motion effect.

Jul 132012

Note: At the time this series of articles was written, my wife Beth was still with us. She died October 11, 2012.

Beth and Mike in the Huntington Manor courtyard.

Beth and Mike adjusting to life at Huntington Manor.

I may have over promised when I said the next article would be about adjusting to life in assisted-living. I have always embraced change, and therefore I thought this would just be one more change to assimilate.

I didn’t realize this would be a different kind of change. Most of life is marked with milestones of achievement – moving away from home, graduations, first love, first home, marriage, children, a bigger home, promotions, recognitions, vacations, retirement.

Even the downsizing that goes along with later stages of life can be viewed positively as you are shedding excess baggage, allowing you to have more time for travel and fun.

But this is different. If most of life is like climbing a winding mountain road in a sports car eagerly waiting to see what’s around each turn, what we are going through now is like stalling and coasting back down the mountain in reverse, with the certain knowledge you will never make it back home.

However, blaming assisted living for our sense of loss is like blaming your garage for no longer holding a car. Physical and personal circumstances have altered the trajectory of our lives. Well-meaning family and friends try their best to make us feel like we are still part of their circle, but the truth is we are not. We are part of a completely different life, one that is necessarily highly regulated and predictable.

Mike, Drew, Linda, Howard, Jennifer and Beth at Huntington Manor

Family members joined us at the Huntington Manor Summer Picnic.

So how does one adjust? I believe there are some key steps:

1. Accept the change. Dwelling on what used to be your life is a sure path to depression. In an earlier post I said I needed to rewrite my life’s script when I learned I had an untreatable, progressively disabling disease. Perhaps now it is time to tear up the script altogether and improvise!

2. Celebrate the advantages. While assisted living may limit your options, it also can improve many aspects of your life, especially if you have been struggling with the activities of daily living. Being helped out of bed, bathed, dressed and fed a nutritious breakfast is a wonderful gift. So is having help available at the push of a button. Cheerful caregivers bring us water and snacks, make sure we get our medicine, drive us to doctors, serve us lunch and dinner on our patio and help us to bed when we are ready.

3. Find purpose. In my case, I’ve taken on the job of building an internet presence for Huntington Manor by updating their website, adding two blogs, one on facility news and one on cooking for the frail elderly, and a Facebook page. I am also dusting off my old php/sql skills to build a database to be used for administration and marketing. I have also given myself the longer term objective of writing one or more books.

Index for this series of articles about assisted living.

Introductory article plus updates.

Is it time for assisted living?

Making the decision to move to assisted living, emotionally, practically and financially.

How we chose the facility we did.

Deciding what to take, what to leave, how to adjust our expectations.

What life in assisted living has been like.

How can we make assisted living better for the physically disabled?