Stupid question: but isn’t there enough Green to go around?

With as many years on the planet as I’ve put in, this seems a silly – or even dumb – question.

And yet, as I read recent headlines and ponder the fate of a few new stroke victims whose stories have come my way, I wonder…

Life isn’t all about money, but oh what money can do for our lives.

Or at least pay the way to get important stuff done. It’s easy to say that money can’t buy happiness. But that depends what you mean. Chucking cash at status simples and questionable gizmos ‘guaranteed’ to stop the ravages of time may indeed fall short. But if the bucks go into research that can save or enrich lives, then I’d say that the money has paid for a few smiles.

Take stroke. Please. Badambum (that’s supposed to read like the sound of the three drum beats that follow a bad joke).

Anyway, strokes have been around for a long, long time. In fact, Hippocrates – he of the MD oath – first pointed them out 2,400 years ago. All that time and we still know so little about stroke and other brain disease and disorders. Why?

A lot of it has to do with how much money there is – or isn’t — for research. It also has to do with getting enough bucks for treatment for victims where they need it and when they need it. I’m sure the same is true for other serious health woes. And I know we also struggle to get cash to the homeless, disenfranchised and struggling all over the planet.

Why? Maybe there isn’t enough money out there to go around?

But I doubt that after hearing some of the stories that have crossed the airwaves of late.

Especially adding to my doubt is the sad but true tale of the star NFL running back who has earned $49.7 million in nine seasons without spending a dime of it. Yes, you read that right. Buddy has raked in nearly 50 mil without touching a cent.

It’s all collecting interest somewhere while he gets buy on his endorsement deals. At least that’s what’s being reported and I haven’t heard any denials.

How responsible of him. He should conduct a workshop on money management for average folks. Or, better yet, for impoverished people trying to decide if they’ll buy enough groceries to last the week or make their rent payment.

What if this fella would crack open the vaults and send just a tiny bit of that cash to stroke research? Or cancer research? Or you name the research. And what if every multi-millionaire in the NFL did the same thing? And what would happen if the NBA, NHL pro soccer millionairs did the same thing?

I can’t prove it, but I have a strong feeling that we’d have a lot of cures to what ails us pretty quickly.

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Shameless plug for me and the Edmonton Public Library Writer in Residence

My old pal, former J-school mate and accomplished novelist, Wayne Arthurson, is Writer In Residence (WIR) at the Edmonton Public Library.

And on Sunday, February 21 at 2PM he’s having me in for a workshop at the Stanely A. Milner Library in downtown E-Town (south-east corner, main level). If you’re interested and you’re in the Edmonton area, please pop in. In fact, you should check out the website to take a peek at the great workshops Wayne has planned and to learn about the WIR program.

Here’s a link: http://www.epl.ca/writer-in-residence/

I’ll be talking about my post stroke reading disabled writing tricks and techniques. I’m pretty sure this stuff can be put to use by those whose brains haven’t been sizzled, as well.

The WIR program is pretty cool stuff. I should have started taking advantage of it a long time ago and I intend to drink in what it has to offer from now on.

Oh, and while I’m writing about writing, I have something I want to share with Blog Nation. My plan is to publish a stroke inspired short story on Kindle in the next few days. I’m curious to see how publishing something this way plays out. Will anybody ever find it among the gazillions of the good, bad and ugly – great, too – stuff you can find in the Kindle universe?

I’m also working on a novel that was in my head before I stroked out. It’s been rebooting ever since and now – finally — I’m putting it to page. Or virtual page, I guess. After that, I’ll get back to editing the stroke tale that I’ve blogged about in the past.

I’ve had some really good advice on the stroke yarn from many, including Toronto’s Kirsten Koza. For those yet to discover Kristen, she’s an author, adventure travel writer, humorist and journalist. You should check her out at: http://kirstenkoza.com/

But I’ve decided that the stroke story needs to come after I’ve tried my hand at the fiction that had been buzzing around in my head before I was buzzed.

We’ll see how it plays out.

Finally, to my fellow strokie readers not interested in all of this writing babble, my message is this – don’t let the stroke take you away from yourself. The new you may look different and feel different. Actually, you are different. But the stroke can’t define who you are unless you let it.

Don’t let it.

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Reality check

Sometimes I forget that my stroke brain was sizzled. Sometimes that’s a good thing.

And sometimes it’s not.

Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever written the word sometimes so many times in such a short time. And now I can’t recall what I was on about. Oh ya, forgetting. How ironic. Or is that really irony? Hmm, no…

Never mind, I should get back on track.

That’s a bit how my mind worked – or didn’t work – after it was buzzed by a stroke nearly six years ago. I couldn’t keep on track. I’d lose the thread of every conversation, every activity. Every thing.

I try to remember that to motivate me to keep my melon charged up, keep using it, to fight off any rust. I don’t want that strokey feeling again, whether it’s caused by another stroke, injury or inactivity. I really do believe, and science seems to back me up here, that it can be use it or lose it with the brain.

But I also try to forget the stroke, the damage that it did and the damage that remains. I don’t want to think of myself as different, flawed or week. I’ll ignore my major remaining stroke scar, a reading disability. I’ll gloss over the fact that letters appear out of sequence to me. Or that they don’t form into words quickly — if at all — without the aid of tech tools.

And then, as happened last weekend, my denial will lead me to do stupid things.

Over the weekend I went to get my oil changed. I saw three drive in doors at the garage. There were cars lined up a too, I picked the third. I spotted a bunch of words up top. Lots of words. I ignored my reading snafu and decided everything was fine. I was just another regular guy lined up for an oil change.

When the door opened and I drove in, the garage dude asked my name. When I told him and he couldn’t find it on his clip board, he looked confused. I explained that I had no appointment, I was just in for a quick oil change. No appointment necessary, I’d been told.

Turns out, if I’d read the signs above the doors, I’d have learned that I’d gone into the spot for folks with appointments for major work. Now garage guy had to get folks to pull out from where I’d driven in to make room to back out my rig. Then I was at the back of the line up for drop in oil changes.

Not the end of the world. But it kind of leaves a fella with a dumb dumb feeling.

So, for the rest of the Year of the Monkey at least, I’m going to try to remember Forest Gumps’ words – stupid is as stupid does. I’m going to try to embrace who I am, turtle reading and all.

BTW, I did this ditty with no proof reader. I’m trying to see if i can trust my reading device tech to keep me golden

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Haven’t you always wanted a monkey?

So, today is Chinese New Year, the first of 15 days of celebrations that mark the lunar New Year.

And from now on, Chinese New Year is my go-to new year. There’re a few reasons for this.

First, I like the idea of a renewal to kick off a New Year. But jamming in a renewal on January 1 after all of the hustle and bustle that the Christmas season brings is a tough nut to crack. It seems to me that a break between Christmas and a new start is a good idea.

The Lunar New Year gives a month and change of breathing room.

I like that. I like it a lot.

Second, we’re now in the Year of the Monkey. I’m a dragon. My wife’s a rat. According to my bride’s research, rats, dragons and monkey’s are super compatible. And that makes this a great year for us, too. After the cancer marred year she’s been through, and with the healing well underway, it makes a lot of sense to embrace some solid positivity.

Whether that makes sense to you or not, I’m going to run with it.

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Yes!

When I was in grade 4, I learned about an interpreter and guide used by the North West Mounted Police. Jerry Potts.

One story about Potts was that he was listened for 90 minutes of a speech from a First Nation Chief to some senior mounties. He said nothing.

When the speech was done, Potts turned to the top cops and said: “He wants food.”

I don’t know if that story is true or not. But in follow to my last blog and where things sit after today’s appointment with her oncologist, I’ll offer a similar three word response: “She’s all good.”

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Brain vs Cancer

 

Something that I’ve been writing around in this blog but never hitting straight on is cancer.

My brides’ cancer, that is.

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She was diagnosed early in the spring of 2015. It hit like a ghost freight train from nowhere. She wanted to keep it between us while the girls went through exam season at the University of Alberta. I don’t know how she did it, but she didn’t want to throw them off of their game while they studied and wrote their finals.

The damn thing about cancer, at least in my experience, is that it comes with blasts of big moments followed by long uncertain weeks and months of wonder and uncertainty.

“I’m sorry to say that you have cancer.”

“What!”

“We’re going to do some tests, then after weeks of this, we’ll tell you what we might do.”

Then after you get your head around that, they tell you something else. Sock.  OK. But then it’s something else. Pow. And something else yet again. Biff.

I have no idea how she did it. How she does it.

Patricia was first told it would need surgery or radiation treatment to take this one. That would depend on tests. When surgery was decided on that seemed good. As good goes in these things. It would be a very invasive surgery that would require a lot of recovery.

That happened in early June.

By late July she was told that it may have spread. She would still also need radiation. Oh, and chemo. WTF?

Five weeks of Monday to Friday radiation chased with a Friday round of chemo. Wow.

She fought through. She’s fricken tough and amazingly determined.

And she had to be brave. Somebody asked what’s the difference between what I faced with my stroke and what Patricia went through with cancer.  I put it this way.

A stroke is like being in grade 4 on the way home from school when the biggest, meanest kid in grade 6 smashes you in the face. Out of the blue. You have no time to think, you just fight.

With cancer, you’re in grade 4 walking to school and that same gig, mean kid walks up to you and says that today, after school he’s going to smash your head in. You have all day to think about it. During recess he takes a couple of stinging shots just to set the stage. Physical pain mixes with anxiety over the unknown all day. You have to screw up our courage all the while knowing that this bully has kicked the shit out of loads of people before you. You have to think about the ones you know that took the bully on and won, but that’s hard to do. And they all have scars.

My gal is a fighter and she’s taken everything that the bully cancer had thrown at her. I’m sure that she’d going to completely kick his ass.

On January 18, she goes in to meet with the oncologist to get the latest.

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The best brain food, is soul food

It’s been a great Christmas season for me, I hope the same is true for you.

I really wasn’t expecting greatness, to be honest. I was just shooting for stable. It’s been that kind of year. There’s the thing with my bride which I’ll blog in detail about soon. My oldest daughter, Kristina moved to Toronto for school in August. Until two weeks ago, I hadn’t seen her for four months.  A job change for me meant that I wasn’t flying to the big smoke every month so my convo’s with K have been by phone, text and FaceTime.

Thank God for cheap long distance, text and FaceTime!

My youngest, Anna, had been so busy with school and work that I wasn’t seeing much of her, either. We decided that we would just hang out in Alberta, visit Pat’s parent’s for Christmas, take a run to the Canmore, AB to drink in the Rocky Mountains and then chill at home the rest of the time before the real world kicks in again on January 4.

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Downtown Canmore

My stroke brain took this to mean that I’d barely see my girls (who are in fact woman, I just can’t get past thinking of them as my girls). And that without flying them and my bride out to Cuba or Mexico or some such place, the holiday’s would fly past with just a few short ‘hi’s’ and ‘by’s’ as they came and went.

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Anna & Kristina 

But my bride told me to try not to worry. And to try to have faith. She’s going through quite a lot right now, so I was sorta bound to listen to her. I tried to take Christmas and the holiday’s day by day. Half day by half day, in fact.

And a funny thing happened… It’s been awesome. Skiing in the Rockies, great food and walks in Canmore, lunches and dinners and various goofy things that’s kept a smile on my lips and a heart that size of the Grinche’s – at the end of the movie, that is.

My gals have also got to spend plenty of time with their pals. Tonight we’ll ring in New Year’s Eve in three separate locations. Tomorrow, we’ll crash on the couch at home and watch movies together all day

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Dobby & Anna in Calgary

And, wow, has this been good for the soul.

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions. But if I was, mine for 2016 might be to take more day’s as they come. It’s good for the soul. And I have a feeling it’s pretty good for the brain, as well.

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He’s back – and he’s cranky

 

 

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Me and my dad, Lee, at about the time Mr. Rollings’ letter was haunting me! The fireplace is his work — bricks were to him like words are to me. Accept

You may have noticed that it’s been a while since I’ve served up a dish of brain food. At least I hope that you’ve noticed.

This brain food fast ends today.

Stuff – which I’ll blog about soon – just sort of sucked the words out of me.  More on that in the next dish.

Today another birthday is here for me.  And, as they often do, the words of my high school English teacher have come back to haunt me. Words in the form of a letter he wrote me in grade 12. It was all about wasted time.

It took me a while to really get what Mr. Rollings was on about in that letter.   Birthday’s often nagged me in my 20s until, little by little,  I felt that I’d gotten my crap together in a way that would satisfy Mr. R. For the most part, I think he’d be happy with my post high school path.

But there’s still one thing that nags when I think of his letter.  The book thing.

So my birthday vow — between God and Blog Nation – is to have a book on shelves or in cyber space before I put another notch on my birth certificate.

Stay tuned.

 

 

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Oliver Sacks – an inspiration to all, especially those of us with sizzled noggin!

I was sad – at first – when I saw the news Sunday night that Oliver Sacks had passed away. The writer and neurologist died following a battle with cancer at age 82.

But when my frown on this news turned quickly into a smile, I realized that this was a man who really lived and that no passing like his can spend much time on the gloom before being overwhelmed by the joy and healing he provided so, so many. Both through his words and science

I never got to meet Oliver Sacks. For that I’m sad. But I did correspond with him once through his assistant and a note that he sent me that I’ll always treasure. Not long after my stroke, as I was struggling to learn to read and write again, I stumbled on to a BBC piece featuring some of his cases. One was about the Canadian crime writer, Howard Engel, whose words had been taken from him following a stroke.

It was the first time I’d heard of anybody with stroke damage remotely like my own. And it was my first time seeing Oliver Sacks through the broader lenses of his amazing work.

I connected with Engle and Sacks within days of seeing the piece. And I started to devour their books with this new lens.

There are loads of docs out there and likely many more writers. I can’t think of many whose work has touched so many people so profoundly. One of Oliver Sacks’ careers would have been a huge blessing to the world. How awesome and inspiring it is that his life was so profound and unselfish serving as both a writer and a neurologist!

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Sobering brain food

Hanging out this week in Toronto at Kristina’s new place got me thinking — which is always a good thing once your brain’s been sizzled.

Last week K and I had a journey — literally and metaphorically — that will be with us all of our lives. We saw huge chunks of the country that we’d only see flying over in a plane. We talked to real people and got their perspectives on life. But we also peppered in deep conversations about life past and present, about hopes and dreams and even fear.

When we arrived in Toronto and met up with Pat, got K’s place set up and took in Toronto with a new lens I kept being struck by something that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Like a thought bubble in a comic strip that was fuzzy and then would fade away completely

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Kensington Market

I got that we’ve been living profound life changing moments over the past two weeks. I got that emotions were running high. I got that I wished Anna were with us too and that I was glad that she was planning to come out soon for a visit with her sis.

I got that I was worried and excited for K all at the same time. Normal stuff, that all is.

But still there was something else. It hit me this morning.

I was a brain buzz away from never getting to do this with my girls. Had my stroke sizzled me a little longer or had my recovery not have been as successful as it was, I’d have missed out on all of this. Instead of driving cross country with K in a rig loaded down with all of her possessions and talking about life, I’d have been sitting at home while somebody else filled my shoes. Instead of being out here with her and Pat setting up house and showing her the bits of Toronto that I love, I’d be watching TV at my place depressed over not being the dad I wanted to be.

Not only would I have that depressing bit to live with, but I’d get to fail all over again in a few years when Anna finishes at the University of Alberta and she takes the next steps in her life.  And because things seem to come and go in threes, I’d also be quite useless to Pat now as she goes through her journey.

It makes me shiver to think of it.

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Niagara Falls (Canadian side)

So, instead — thanks to great medical treatment, amazing family support and a thumbs up from the higher power — I’m enjoying this time with Kristina and Pat and preparing for a normal and healthy heart sickness when I have to get a on a bird back for Edmonton.

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