Marcus Can (Still) Draw

The house has been free of bullets zipping past from left to right and grenades exploding like they were nearby. We played one Call of Duty Zombies last weekend but that was it.

Marcus had his sight back on Minecraft and that’s a good thing. I’m an eager block builder on his command. Creative games are good breaks from shooting games.

I sensed he got bored winning over me in Call of Duty as there was a day when he was just hunched over his phone longer than other days. I soon discovered he was sketching a plan. Something he will soon build on Minecraft.

The plan.

I was impressed when I saw the sketch thru a drawing app which he soon tested how it would appear on Minecraft Xbox One by building it on his Minecraft phone app.

The draft on his phone app.

Next step was more challenging. He finalized his concept by doing it on survival mode. Minecraft players know how tough it is to build while on this mode. The resources are limited, the health degrades, you can’t fly, and there are creepers and other annoying creatures to deal with. And the character has to sleep (this I like).

The final build.

The colored blocks are the hardest. Unlike in creative mode wherein these are readily available, on survival mode each colored block must be crafted using different materials depending on the color. His build has several colors and I can’t imagine myself doing it. I can’t even craft in the first place after all these years of playing with him.

While Marcus has been out of school for years already, he still continues to surprise me given his lack in mobility. Despite lack of books he learns from his games and online. He is smart and that is good enough for me.

***

Drafted this weeks ago and I just got time to publish this. I’m on long weekend and it’s my birthday, that’s why. And by the way, we started playing Call of Duty again and yes,I’m still settling for second place on a good day.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (No cakes, no big celebration but still happy to be with Marcus and wifey.)

Nike-Free

Give me a treadmill and I’m good. That was a lie. Weeks after running on the NordicTrack S20 I feel like had this urge to check my gait, like I know how to do it. Thanks to YouTube I had some tips what to look for. Spoiler: shoes talk next.

I am flat-footed and by definition is an overpronator. In shoes terms, I need stability running shoes. I knew this for a fact long time ago which is why I’ve been looking for a shoe that would fit me best. Commonly known shoes are Nikes but for serious runners not all Nike running shoes are equal. Nike’s Structure is what I need but far in several visits to shoe shops and Nike factory outlets, Structure isn’t always available.

Two years ago I bought a Skechers Go and on the same month I received a Nike Free Rn. I liked both and started to love the minimalist Free Run. Long term use, however, cushioning and support seem to matter. The Skechers Go has more cushion but support is a question.

Back to result of my own gait self-test, video of me running reveals that I actual don’t over pronate. My amateur eyes say so. Wear patterns show the same thing though. My soles have even wear.

Two years later this is what my Skechers Go’s sole look like.

Last Monday I braved traffic and chances of getting COVID-19 just to confirm my gait analysis. Runnr stores are known to offer this test so I purposely went to their Ayala Town Center branch. It was a disappointment. Their equipment was under repair and their staff lack empathy (oops, work stuff).

Good that ATC has options. I moved around and found stores with accommodating sales persons. Mizuno had tempting offers. Buy a pair of Inspire 13 and get other models for P500-P1500 only. Inspire 13 is their stability running shoe that cost around P6K. It looks solid but felt heavy.

Next store was it for me. Asics was selling their pricey Gel Kayano 26 for just P5.5K but only for their gray pairs. It didn’t take long for me to swipe my card as Gel Kayano always appears among the top recommended stability shoes.

My first ever Asics shoe.

I have racked up 15Km with the Gel Kayano 26 and the forefoot cushioning is obvious. Heel seems stiff until now but I’m not complaining. Few more break-in runs and that should improve. Besides I land heel first on my slow paces. Yesterday I hit 6.8 min/km using the Gel Kayano 26. Today I did 6.6 using the old Skechers Go. Hmm. Maybe I need to try a Hoka. Whatever, I’m Nike-free.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Can’t believe November is almost over.)

Out of Running Grave

I spoke too soon, gave up on running again too soon. This week (despite a day after suffering an upset stomach and nausea) the product I ordered online from Chris Sports store finally arrived. My most costly expense, the NordicTrack S20 treadmill.

Yes, believe it or not, I purchased a treadmill online. Almost foolishly, I didn’t even verify if the website was legit. Haha. And I once thought my wife was too compulsive online. But after 14 days of anxiously waiting, I was looking at the heaviest package ever delivered at home so far (Props to husband and wife tandem who brought this via their Transportify).

Not just big, it’s heavy too.

The treadmill requires assembly. Wifey said it was my Lego. Fighting lightheadedness, I got the pieces all together in more than three hours. The instructions are easy to follow but I discovered it requires a 3/8 ratchet socket wrench which thankfully I have at home. The treadmill’s kit only includes an allen key.

Major parts (fan stand not included)
Spent after three hours of mechanical work.

It was only today, three days later, when I finally tested the treadmill (Day one was wifey). I was slow for so many reasons and one of which is this is my first run after almost seven months. No thanks to this pandemic. I was only able to peak at 10 speed setting. The NordicTrack S20 has 20 max speed and I am quite sure is more than enough than I can handle. This treadmill is bang for the buck at Php65K or approximately $1300 (including the 3000W AVR) which is intially priced at Php73K without the AVR.

Face shouts effort!

So there, story of my life. Broke but happy. More running days ahead.

Scrap Running

Just when we thought life is starting to get back to normal, the new norm at least, news all over tell us that this ain’t over yet.

Whenever I drive I can see that traffic is getting denser than it was in the past five months. Living close to the highway I observe that the road is beginning to show some activity. On my weekly trips to the market to get Marcus his broccoli and cauliflower, more recreational cyclists, weekend motorcycle riders, and motorists can be seen heading down south where the routes leading to scenic vacation spots are.

Personally, I too have been planning my own activities which I realized are all attempts to get me out of the house for a change. Not to mention break routine and boredom. To start, I have designed– with consent and support of Marcus and wifey, FYI–my tattoo. I want a half sleeve tattoo of Marcus’ games. I also have contacted a skydiving drop zone in Cebu and a scuba diving club in Anilao. Fly or dive, whatever. I just feel like I can do any of these anytime soon.

Not happening

There is also the supposedly doable running that I stopped doing in March when the quarantine period started. This past weekend and today I was getting ready to go out and run to finally complete the Star Wars virtual run I registered early part of this year. The virtual run has been pushed back a couple of times already from its initial May deadline to October 31 this time. I was so raring to log 40K on my Garmin.

Fresh news however remind us that the pandemic is still here. The most striking is about the POTUS getting tested positive for COVID-19. American Pres. Donald Trump who has been downplaying the severity of the virus is now part of the statistics of people who got infected with it. Then close to home, our local cable TV provider announced that several of its staff are under quarantine after getting exposed to COVID-19.

So there goes my plans. The risk of getting infected or being an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 is still high and I can’t afford Marcus getting sick just because of me doing something that isn’t really considered essential. These will have to wait until the vaccine becomes available. And the big question now is when. Big WHEN.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Back to home workouts.)

Jump Around

We kept our house (or try to) minimalist so we’d have enough space for Marcus’ wheelchair and there is benefit to doing it. As I progress along my home workout routines I discovered I have room to do skip ropes indoors and I have been doing this for years now.

Once I thought I’d be happy to do crossover jumps but it got boring soon. Then I was able to achieve double unders though only sparingly and just in between fast skips. Nowhere to run, literally, this quarantine period I upped the skip rope difficulty.

Thanks to YouTube, I saw a video that got me interested. It was a CrossFit challenge featuring 45 double unders done in succession. One after the other. Next day I attempted it and found out I can do it. I have improved my double unders count since then but not yet halfway close to 45.

Like anything else, there’s a technique to double unders. It’s not just all about jumping high but rather it involves coordination of movements. The flick of the wrist to make the rope go around faster is key.

A lighter and smaller rope also presents a good challenge than using a heavier rope. Unable to just go back to my favorite sports store, Decathlon,  whenever I want to, I found Jump Manila on Facebook. The page promotes jumping rope activities and also sells skipping ropes.

I was happy with Jump Manila’s skip rope but two months later it revealed its weak spot.

That dark band is a sign it will break.
Break point.

Jump Manila’s very simple and lightweight design has an Achilles heel.  Without a bearing like Decathlon’s Domyos skip rope, the constant motion of the rope results to friction at the area close to the tip of the handle and over time a nick formed until the rope snapped.

Domyos skip ropes have bearings to prevent the rope from rubbing the edge of the handles.

Now I’m left using my trusty old Domyos skip rope. It’s slightly harder to flick but I’m good with it until I find another. I have my eyes set on buying from Decathlon ‘s online store as Ive seen on Facebook they have a weight adjustable skip rope. We’ll see how this goes.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Weekend again.)

I Survived the #25PushUpChallenge

The words were once just lyrics to a song playing over and over again back when I was in elementary. 19 was one of my faves among the popular radio hits. Like other boys I used to like playing soldiers so a song mentioning Vietnam was cool.

“According to a Veteran’s Administration study
Half of the Vietnam combat veterans suffered
From what psychiatrists call
Post traumatic stress disorder
Many vets complain of alienation, rage, or guilt
Some succumb to suicidal thoughts
Eight to ten years after coming home
Almost eight-hundred-thousand men
Are still fighting the Vietnam War” (genius.com)

Post traumatic stress disorder doesn’t mean anything then. But I was curious, I tried to understand 19’s lyrics. There was no internet available in the 80s so it was from our trusty medical books at home where I learned that post traumatic stress disorder is PTSD in short. It was basically a form of long-term nightmare observed to be experienced by American soldiers coming from their Vietnam tour of duty.

PTSD is nasty. More so its suicidal effect if left untreated as this is the ultimate point of no return. What’s more concerning is that PTSD doesn’t happen to Vietnam war veterans alone. It can affect anyone who has experienced something painful and terrifying in their lives which according to Mayoclinic even children can have PTSD.

So when I was nominated by someone on Facebook to do the #25PushUpChallenge which raises awareness about PTSD I was up for it though I broke some rules. I hate bugging people so I didn’t nominate anyone. Night shift had me lose my orientation of a 24-hour day so there were days I had two posts. But hey, I did 25 posts with hashtag #25PushUpChallenge which is the main goal of all this–to contribute to raising awareness.

Doing pushups for 25 days seems daunting at first. Hitting boredom was a concern. Fatigue was another.And then there’s that part of posting videos of it on Facebook (made me feel narcissistic at the end). But the challenge rule doesn’t dictate doing just strict military pushups so my personal goal was to vary the pushup routine over 25 days.

A screenshot of my #25PushUpChallenge Facebook album

And I succeeded. I am proud to say that not one #25PushUpChallenge video I posted shows the same set as the others. While the a pushup variation appears in several videos,I made sure the sets I do every day is something unique. I was raising awareness and at the same time testing myself to do something new each day.

Last Friday I hit day 25 of 25. Weird, it feels like ending a Netflix and I’m left wondering what’s next. However, if there’s something I learned from #25PushUpChallenge is that commitment is always important in beating any challenge. As my favorite workout mantra goes, “Know the whys so you can endure the hows.” Happy Sunday everyone.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Got paper airplanes to build, new Xbox games to play with Marcus. Thanks to American Santa Clauses.)

DMD and COVID-19

2020 so far is the toughest time to deal with as this year has not been favorable for children with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) like Marcus. On top of his existing mobility challenges, events this year worsened the health risks and restrictions on where he can go.

Marcus has DMD which is a progressive condition common to young boys his age. This genetic condition impacts their muscles thus affecting movement.  To make matters worse, internal organs too decline in functions over time. In Marcus’ case, besides being unable to walk and limited hands mobility, symptoms we have observed are stuttering and abnormal bowel movement. Breathing and heart functions could degenerate sooner or later.

Our first scare this year was the Taal volcano eruption. Living just past the 15-kilometer danger zone, our fear back then was what if the ashfall linger for a longer time and consequently affecting air quality. Thank God, we survived that, Marcus got to see the world outside our home after few weeks of waiting for the thick ashes to get washed away. We had trips to the malls a couple of times after the roads were cleared of volcanic dusts.

But just when we thought life is starting to go back to normal, we soon realized in March the mask is here to stay. This time indefinitely and more worrisome. No thanks to COVID-19.

This time the pandemic locked Marcus in at home. Since the quarantine period started, he has not been wheeled out of the house and the windows have been his only view of what’s happening outside. He has missed his therapy sessions at the hospital and he has never returned to the malls again. I went to a Toys ‘R Us to buy an XBox controller without him.

Amidst all this, the transfers from his room to the living room and back, we are grateful that Marcus remains healthy. Knock on wood, he was never sick. He’s relatively active, still sharp in what he does best–video games. His weekends at the malls have also been replaced by karaoke nights in his room. He likes Taylor Swift’s songs, Twenty One Pilots, and lately, BTS. I’m not complaining. I always look forward to dancing while he sings. Good cardio in the middle of the night, in my dreams…Oopps.

Today, September 7, we celebrate another Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy Awareness Day with the hope science will find a cure to this condition soon. Wishful thinking, sooner than COVID-19.

Marcus testing the reclining chair.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Big Bang Theory on Netflix.(

High Score

One of the Netflix shows we watched with Marcus recently was High Score. The show features the history of gaming, though selective platforms only, from the early days of the then almighty NES and Atari.

High Score is only one season. It only highlights the classic games like Mario, Donkey Kong, and Doom. Show also mentions about arcade games as well famous block game, Tetris. And this posed a challenge to Marcus who tried his hand-eye coordination on the spin-off of this iconic game and he didn’t fail. Last night he recorded the highest in our province in the game Block Out.

***

Hand movements

In the recent days I noticed that Marcus prefers me brushing his teeth instead of him doing it. He’s been using an electric toothbrush which requires less hand motion but the downside is that it’s heavier than its manual counterparts. So last night I was so elated to realize that Marcus can still clap his hands while we were watching TV. Hope his strength stays longer.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Had Starbucks America after a long while.)

Of Masks and Pricey Dispenser

Few more days and we’d be under quarantine mode for five months already. It doesn’t matter what quarantine version we’re at (there’s ECQ, GCQ, and now MECQ) but the fact that the number of cases continue to rise only means that extra paranoia is much welcome. If 126,000 positive cases (and counting) don’t alarm you, I don’t know what will.

On top of the minimum safety measures to avoid getting infected with the dreaded COVID-19 virus like wearing masks, effective washing of hands, and social distancing we have started to do more at home. I’m the one who has the quarantine pass and the only one who can drive–stress on the ‘can drive’–so I’m the designated errand person. And whenever I return home there’s always that feeling of uncertainty if I brought something that could make wifey or Marcus sick. Maybe it’s just me but I won’t be surprised if equally paranoid people feel the same thing. And so habits have changed.

For one, my bath habits. Back in the pre-COVID-19 days I would always take a bath whenever I need to drive somewhere as I’d feel sticky if I don’t. Now I don’t care. People nowadays wear masks so if ever I stink it would go unnoticed anyway, and if someone does think I reek like hell, I’m all masked plus with cap and a face shield so I’m like a villain skunk whose identity is fully protected.

Take note of the double masks while I wait inside the car for my Jollibee to go.

Don’t judge yet, I still do take a bath but it now happens when I arrive home. That is, after I have sprayed my car’s interior with disinfectant and wipe everything I take out of the grocery bag like erasing an evidence from a crime scene. Yep, that’s new norm for me.

Then there’s more. The drinking water we use at home comes from a nearby mineral water station. For four years since we transferred here, we’ve been a regular customer. But lately I have been more observant than ever on how the water containers are refilled and I can see potential source of contamination– the store assistant has not been wearing masks. So last week I finally approved wifey’s decision to order a costly water dispenser which has filters in it.

Never thought I’d agree to buying a P20,000+ water dispenser.
Tested and passed.

I don’t trust the quality of our tap water just like my mistrust on how our current government is handling this pandemic. Oops, can’t help it but that’s how bad. I do think though that the Waters(TM) water filter will deliver. The dispenser includes a kit to test water quality and so far it passes with flying colors. I drank water from it yesterday after setting it up and so far no upset stomach. I’d miss the workout I get from lifting two 5-gallon containers every other week.

***

Mood: 4/10 Honks! (Saturday again, I deserve a Bacardi.)