Bragging Rights

Muriel from BlogI’ve been having a grand time reading books downloaded onto my e-reader from the Gutenberg Project website. As a history buff, I’m thoroughly enjoying “The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin” written in 1791. Franklin wrote with obvious pleasure about his many accomplishments, and who can blame him. 

“I shall a good deal gratify my own vanity,” said Franklin. “Indeed, I scarce ever heard or

Franklin was unabashedly proud of his accomplishments

Franklin was unabashedly proud of his accomplishments

saw the introductory words, “Without vanity I may say…” but some vain thing immediately follows.”

It made me think about some of the good stuff most of us accomplish in our own lives and, although nothing I’ve ever done compares with Franklin, perhaps it is okay to share some, especially since one was so recent, I am still basking in the pleasure of it.

This was a tax issue complicated by my having lived for years in the U.S. before returning to Canada, which resulted in some double taxation. After about a year of letters, phone calls and emails, I received an email just this week, which reads partly: “Muriel:  Good News.  It appears that our contact, —– has been able to negotiate an exemption for you as well as other clients in your situation with the CRA…..  He complimented you on your very thorough investigation noting that it was extremely helpful in amending the current policy, not only for you, but in general for all clients in the same circumstance.  Kudos to you!!!   ….

I know I'm right, blah, blah, blah....

I know I’m right, blah, blah, blah….

.”Since I’m neither an accountant nor a tax expert, you can imagine how pleased I am, especially knowing that I have, at the same time, helped others.

I’m also pleased with the fabulous little Book Club I started around 1997/98, which continues to enrich my own life so much. I’ve certainly gotten more out of it than anyone else possibly could.

We read, we discuss the books, and enjoy each other

We read, we discuss the books, and enjoy each other

Through the years, this little group of knowledgeable, well-read women has introduced me to authors and books I would never have read on my own. And besides we have a good time at it.

But here’s the biggie. I am extremely proud of having founded the BC Balance & Dizziness Disorders Society (BADD) in 1999, with the encouragement and support of my then wonderful otolaryngologist, Dr. Graham Bryce. BADD is dedicated to supporting people with balance, dizziness and all related vestibular issues, and we’ve managed to help hundreds of people who suffer with these debilitating conditions.

Tai Chi is now recognized in the medical literature as being helpful for the vestibular system

Tai Chi is now recognized in the medical literature as being helpful for the vestibular system

Soon afterwards, I saw Teruko Ueda performing Tai Chi and thought perhaps that would be a good thing for us dizzy folk to try. The “Tai Chi for Balance” class was started in 2000 and is thriving under Teruko’s gentle leadership. Now Tai Chi is recognized in medical literature as being helpful for people like us.

The “Vestibular Rehab exercise classes” we started continue to run and help people cope. BADD also created a DVD of these for people to use in their own homes if they don’t have access to a class in their own community. Hurrah for all of us. You can find BADD’s website at: http://www.balanceanddizziness.org

BADD created a DVD of Vestibular Rehab Exercises people can purchase and do in their own homes.

BADD created a DVD of Vestibular Rehab Exercises people can purchase and do in their own homes

So, you will understand why I so enjoyed the following article about BADD written by Canada’s well-known humourist Arthur Black. He is the only one I know who can write with humour about his experience with Benign Positional Paroxysmal Vertigo (BPPV) and, fortunately for him, finding the proper treatment for same.

Arthur Black, beloved Canadian humourist

Arthur Black, beloved Canadian humourist

(By the way, Arthur Black, a 3-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour and former host of CBC Radio’s “Basic Black”, etc., etc., has a new book out, “Fifty Shades of Black”. Just hearing the title made me laugh.)

Arthur Black's latest book, "Fifty Shades of Black", guaranteed to make you laugh.

Arthur Black’s latest book, “Fifty Shades of Black”, guaranteed to make you laugh.

Of Vertigo, Vanity and Volunteers

Reprinted with permission of the author, award-winning Canadian humourist Arthur Black

A couple of years ago, I suffered – briefly – from a condition called Benign Paroxysmal Position Vertigo – BPPV for short.

Dizzy spells, to put it even shorter.  If I got up too fast or turned my head too sharply or bent over quickly to pick something off the floor, my internal gyroscope went into overdrive and I lurched about like Ozzie Osbourne on New Year’s Eve.

You don’t get BPPV from bad dietary practices, using street drugs or hanging out at the Willie Pickton pig farm.  BPPV is an equal opportunity bushwhacker that nails vicars and villains alike.  Anyone can get it, at any age, at any time.  An attack comes when microscopic grains of calcium crystals floating about in your inner ear brush against tiny hairs therein.

This sends signals to your brain that you are falling down, or veering left or right.  Your brain attempts to get your body to compensate in 11 different directions all at once and, hey presto, you feel like you are going through the spin cycle in some galactic Maytag.

Happily, there is a procedure called the Epley Maneuver.  It’s a relatively simple manipulation of the head that any qualified ear, nose and throat specialist is trained to perform.  Basically, Doctor ENT takes your noggin and gives it a vigorous spin.  The idea is to shake up those calcium crystals in your ear and get them to settle down where they’re supposed to be, well away from the hairs.

Does it work?  An astonishing 85% of the time – providing you actually are suffering from BPPV.  If your vertigo is caused by something else (and there are several possibilities) then the Epley Maneuver won’t help.  My vertigo was cured in one visit and I wrote a magazine article about it.  End of story.  Not.

I get an email from one Muriel Kauffmann.  She is a spokeswoman for a group called BADD which stands for Balance and Dizziness Disorders Society.  As a former sufferer, she wants to know, would I consider coming to town and speaking to her group?  Well, sure.  Public speaking is what I do for a living.  I email her back with details of my speaking fee, my expenses expectations and my availability.

I get another email.  You don’t understand, writes Muriel.  We are a non-profit organization.  We don’t even have an executive.  Would I come and speak for free?

Hell, no.  I’m a professional.  I don’t give away my services.  Would you ask a surgeon to do a free appendectomy?  A lawyer to defend you in court, gratis?

You don’t understand, Muriel emails back.  She makes many passionate arguments, but what it boils down to is, what I don’t understand is that she is Muriel Kauffmann and she will not be denied.

When I arrive to deliver my (free) speech at St. Paul’s Church in Vancouver, the auditorium is not only sold out, there are people sitting in the aisles and a conga line of latecomers trailing out the door.

This is entirely Muriel Kauffmann’s doing.  She had dredged up every soul who ever suffered from vertigo in the entire British Columbia Lower Mainland and they are all here tonight.

And as almost happens when I abandon my narrow preconceptions and go with the flow, I learn amazing things and hear incredible tales.  I hear one sufferer tell how her doctor pooh-poohed the Epley Maneuver.  “It’s a hoax,” he assured her.  I hear of another vertigo victim who spent 10 years – ten years – as a prisoner inside her own house, terrified to face the world for fear she would fall on her face.

After a decade of self-exile, she went into the office of an ENT specialist in a wheelchair.  And walked out on her own two feet.

I hear stories infinitely more interesting – and harrowing – than my frail tale, but incredibly, my vertigo story – thanks entirely to Muriel Kauffmann – continues to snowball across the nation.

So far, I have been interviewed by two Vancouver newspapers, CKNW radio, the Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Sun. I have yet to return calls to the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette and CBC radio’s national radio show, The Current.  I’ve got emails, cards and letters from BPPV sufferers from Joe Batt’s Arm to Buffalo to Baffin Bay.  I’ve written books that didn’t get one-tenth this attention.

Point of the story?  A metaphorical bouquet of roses to the Muriel Kauffmanns of the world who Get Things Done and Don’t Take No For an Answer.  Muriel’s a volunteer and like all volunteers she gives her time and her energy and her cunning, all for free.  Volunteers – bless ‘em – are the backbone and lifeblood of our communities.

Moral number two: count your blessings. If you got out of bed this morning and didn’t fall flat on your keister or do a 180-degree face plant into the wall, consider yourself lucky.

Award yourself an extra scoop of corn flakes.”

I am particularly proud of  mu children who love me despite my failings.                despite

I am particularly proud of my children who love me despite my failings.

Benjamin Franklin was certainly able to say he accomplished much in his lifetime. I’ve managed a few of my own that please me. I think being a parent and raising my children to be good, honest, decent, human beings is another accomplishment I am extremely proud of.  And, I am proud of them in particular, especially for their loving patience with me in all ways — especially regarding technology.

What about you? How about sharing some of your accomplishments here?

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9 thoughts on “Bragging Rights

  1. You are a great neighbour and a council member always willing to lend a hand. A quote from Mother Teresa “you don’t have to do great things to make a big difference in the world, just small things with great love”. You’ve accomplished all these with love and good intentions to help others, and these are greatest things a human being could do to one-another. You’ve certainly earned your bragging rights, Muriel! I will let you know my not so visible accomplishments in person :;

  2. I 2nd Shermila’s comments, Muriel. You are extremely hard-working. And I guess you have a stick-to-it-ness… And I guess you must have a talent for organizing too, for making things happen.
    . . . As far as my own accomplishments, they are more meta-physical and about learning, than physical things I can point to. I worked in computers for 20 years at Safeway’s head office, and got good at debugging them and learning how they worked. As I told our 3rd floor neighbour, Michael, now I’m trying to debug the world.
    . . . My biggest accomplishment is just dealing with illness.
    This is a great idea, this particular post of yours, Muriel. Very existential. Basically: What gives one’s own particular personality Meaning? What should I do with my life? What should I choose to focus on?
    . . . 🙂

  3. I think that “she is Muriel Kauffmann and she will not be denied” pretty much sums it up, eh? An amazing woman, a force of nature, an inspiring writer, and I’m proud to be considered a friend. Keep on blogging girrrl!

  4. Thanks for being you, Muriel! And it was thanks to you that I discovered BADD, soon after it first began. You had written an article in the Vancouver Courier paper on the topic of balance and dizziness, and about Teruko Ueda’s Tai Chi class. It’s so rare and wonderful to find someone who believes in “people helping people”, like you do. If it were not for people like you, we may all just go on suffering in silence, or trying to explain these things to our doctors, who unfortunately sometimes just don’t get it!

  5. My dear, you certainly have accomplished a lot in life (much more than you bragged about here)! I am glad I have you in my life as a friend and most of all, as an inspiration. I want to be just like you when I grow up and continue to learn and accomplish new things everyday. Thank you!

  6. As always Muriel you accomplish so much. I carry BADD brochures with me at all times and speak with people who might mention they have a balance and dizziness disorder. This may be a few minutes or five or ten minutes and if they wish – and they usually do – give them a few brochures. Also posters are put in the library and on bulletin boards.
    If you are looking for a good book to add to your list try “Cruel Doubt”. It is a true story and excellently written.

  7. Despite the title of this article, my mom is actually being quite modest in this article, as she has done so many, many things in her life that are inspiring and worthy of being bragged about! I particularly admire my mother for the continual courage she shows in life, as illustrated by a variety of things such as her decision to pick up and move back to Canada when she was nearly 60 (not to mention her original decision to move to California when she was little more than a kid!); and her launching fearlessly into the confidence-trouncing world of film acting — again when she was no spring chicken! Then she does these mind-blowing trips (China, New Zealand, etc.), despite her often debilitating troubles with dizziness and constant pain in her knee. More evidence, in my opinion, of not just her courage, but also of her perpetually questing mind — another way she inspires me. Many of you are probably also not aware that our Muriel has substantial artistic talent, as well — though that is something she has not pursued in a long time. I remember watching her draw, though, when I was a young child, and she was definitely gifted.

    The other day, I was diagnosed with degenerative arthritis in my hands, which my doctor told me is hereditary, coming down through the mother’s side of the family. When I told my mom, she good-naturedly told me that I could go ahead and yell at her for this. What I said instead was that yes, I know I inherited some physical problems from her part of the genetic lottery, but I also know that every good quality I have came from her, as well. I am grateful to her for my own creative proclivities — both artistic and literary — and for the relatively intelligent brain I was born with. What I failed to say then, and what I will say now, is that many of the good things I got from my mom were not inherited, but were instead learned. The values she instilled in us and the example she set certainly helped form the best aspects of my character and moral compass — and I have no doubt that this is the same for my brother.

    I have no illusions that my mother is perfect. She is human, and flawed as we all are. However, she is an exceptional person who definitely has much to be proud of in her life, and I’m glad she took this opportunity to give herself a little pat on the back. By doing so, she has once again served as an inspiration to others, who have reported back that reading this article has given them “permission” to think about their own achievements, instead of perhaps harping on their weaknesses and failings, as so many of us often do. Thanks, Mom!

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