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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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Neil Young’s question: Why do I keep f___ing up?

I find myself asking this poignant — if crude — question these days.

Or maybe the question is: “why can’t things run like a fire engine on all cylinders all — or at least most — of the time?”

I’m in an awesome new job. I love it. Great people, heady stuff every day and it’s in communications, my wheel house. On top of that, I’ve got a great opportunity to get my book in front of a publisher thanks to an amazing supporter that I was connected to through a Toronto friend. I had a fantastic road trip from Alberta to Toronto with my oldest just a few weeks ago, followed by an incredible week in Toronto at her new digs, joined by my lovely bride.

Amazing. Colossal. Fantastic.

But now back in Edmonton, my bride is going through intense, brutal medical treatment and there’s little that I can really do. The edits I’m making on my book before shipping it off  have  stalled for some reasons that I understand and others that I’m battling with my brain over. And I’m constantly feeling like I’m letting down one of my ladies as they cope with the myriad challenges they’re facing.

Angering. Crappy. Frustrating.

It would be nice to be able to stop time for just a few hours to put together a game plan to figure out how to get everything right all at once. Clearly that can’t be done, and I keep having vivid reminders of this. To that point, I’ve posted a pair of pictures taken from my office of the construction of the new arena – Rogers Place – being built in Edmonton.

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Before…
RogersPlace2
two weeks after.

The first pic is the day before I left for Toronto on my road trip. The second is from my first day back to work, two weeks later.

Look at all of the change in such a short time! When I saw this, it made one thing crystal clear — there ain’t no slowing down the clock. Tick, tick, tick.

So then, with all of the moving parts in life, how does a fella keep excelling at what they’re excelling at and try to bring other bits up to speed without dropping the ball on it all — like a beginner juggler? And how do you control the things you can’t control?

On the second question, I guess you just can’t. A guy just has to learn not to try to control these things and spend the time in hand as well as possible. And to be open to the opportunities and needs of whatever comes.

On the first part though, I may have found the answer in a quote hanging in my home office for so long that – until today – I stopped paying attention to it. It’s from Marianne Williamson. She said: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world.”

Maybe she has something there? I’m going to think about it for a spell.

Meanwhile, I better get back to those damn book edits and then think of some ways I can support my wife and girls without trying to fix everything.

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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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Road Blog Fin

Well, we’ve mostly unpacked the stuff we trucked from Alberta to Toronto into Kristina’s new pad.

She’s in a great spot near Queen Street just west of University. She’s walking distance from the UofT, Chinatown, Kensington and just about everything else. It’s awesome.

After a morning of building Ikea stuff, Pat and I went on a long walk while Kristina met some friends.  Then we all got together with our friend Richard for a bite on Church Street. Last night was much the same except K and I ended the night having a couple of beers and listening to Jazz at The Rex.

There’s some more unpacking to do, but I’m now declaring the rest of the week vacation time. Some more live music, walks and a Jay’s game are in the cards. Maybe a drive south, too.

Here are some pics to cap off the odyssey.

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Road Blog #5

We’re here. And so is Pat — she flew in a couple of days ago and stayed with friends.

Everything is in Kristina’s appartment, the rental truck is returned and I’m beat.

K’s out on her balcony looking at the CN Tower. Her location is amazing, walking distane from the University of Toronto and so much more — China Town, Younge Street, you name it.

What’s weird is, now that the road trip is over, a new era has begun for me. I’m now a visitor at her home. After 22 years, that’s a major mind bender.

There are great pics just waiting to be posted, but they’re gonna have to wait. First off, we’re not sure where the camera is. Second, like i said to begin with, we’re beat. So, tomorrow we’re going to post the final pictures of our road trip and the move in.

Oh, no editor for this, and i can’t see straight, so spelling may be especially bad.

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Road Blog #4

We made it. But we’re beat. We’re in Vaughn. After getting here we headed to Canada’s Wonderland to be tourists.

But we’re way too tired to write anything halfway good or to post pics.

Stories and pictures to follow tomorrow after the big move!

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Road Blog #3

We were road warriors today — about 14 hours on the road.

That included stops for snaps at Kakabeka Falls (see K’s pic below), for grub in Marathon and a near sunset shoot at a scenic spot on Lake Superior. There were a couple of stops on the big lake. One of which included me singing a rendition of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Not quite up to Gordon Lightfoot’s standard, but not bad if I do say so.

Coffee, Redbull and a combo of Van Halen 1, Led Zeppelin 4 and lots of other great numbers got us through. But the caffeine is wearing off. Gotta crash.

Don’t you crash before looking at these great pics from Kristina:

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Road Blog#2

The Canadian Shield rocks!

Kristina and I just chowed down in Ignace, ON. We drove 10 hours today to get here, starting in Shoal Lake, MB. We bedded down there instead of making it to Winnipeg.

Skies were looking kinda foreboding. It was getting dark. And there had been construction making it tough to tell where the road ended and the gravel began.

Turns out that was a good thing. Shortly after checking into our motel, it really started to pour and there was booming thunder and sky-piercing lightening. Then tornado warnings started showing up on the TV. Including for where we were.

Yikes.

We finally got to sleep around mindnight but were woken by another round of thunder and lightening.

The morning news told us that we missed a tornado that touched down by just an hour’s drive.

Yikes.

Today, after lunch in Steinbach, MB, we drove through the amazing lakes of southeastern Manitoba and through the Canadian Shield. I’ve never seen this country face to face before. Amazing. Unreal. I can’t believe I waited this long to make the drive.

I can’t get over how amazing the Manitoba lakes and the shield are. The Shield? It’s as awe inspiring as the Rocky Mountains in its way. Pretty high comment from me, being an Alberta boy raised within eyeshot of the Rockies.

We’ll be up early tomorrow to drive another 12 or so hours. More pics then.

Kristina has more unreal shots. Take a look..

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Road Blog #1

Kristina and I hit the road at 8:35 this morning from Sherwood Park, AB. Thirteen hours have passed and we’re in Shoal Lake Manitoba, at the Shoal Lake Motor Inn.

We could’ve kept going, but road construction and a coming thunderstorm forced us to stop.

We had a quick pit stop in the Alberta-Saskatchewan border town of Lloydminster. Gassed up again just east of Saskatoon in beautiful Colonsay, finally stopping for some grub and a Pil at Brown’s Social House in Yorkton, near the Manitoba boarder.

It was beautiful prairie driving through foreboding skies and some rain. Sometimes lots of rain. But when we hit Manitoba, the skies were clear so we soldiered on. Then it got dark. And the road construction erased the road markings. And clear sky gave way to clouds and lightening.

So, we’re taking a powder in Shoal and will hit the road again bright and early Tuesday AM.

Take a look at some of K’s pics.

Colonsay, SK
Colonsay, SK

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Blogging volcanoes and crickets

It’s been a few months of blogging now and it’s starting to make me feel like an insecure kid in my early 20s. Again.

Maybe you know what that’s like? If not, I’ll fill you in.

There are some weeks where you feel like a million bucks. The “beautiful” people have all the time in the world for you. No matter what you say, they’re digging it. At work or school you’re a rock star. You can do no wrong, your ideas are brilliant, your execution flawless. Folks tear up laughing at your jokes. No wrong can be done by you.

Then there are the other days where you could swear you bathed in garlic and that your brain and mouth are horribly out of sync. You can do no right.

This is how it feels with the blog. Some weeks I hit ‘publish’ and the readers flow like lava from a volcano. I’m on fire. The reader numbers tick away faster than I can count ‘em.

Other weeks, it’s crickets. The reader numbers seem to be going in reverse.

What did I do wrong? Why don’t they like me anymore? Why? Why!?

That’s part of the reason why I haven’t hit ‘publish’ for a while on a new blog. There are two other reasons, though.

First is that my bride, Patricia has had a new hurdle thrown at her on her health battle. We’d thought she was on a steady road to recovery when she got a sucker punch. Now she’s facing a few more tough rounds in her fight. She’s gonna win, but damn.

It really pisses me off and I’ve let it mute my words for a while.

The second thing is that my oldest daughter, Kristina, is heading to Toronto for school. It’s unbelievable that the little bundle we brought home from the hospital in what seems like not that long ago is going to be working on a post grad program in the Big Smoke.

What a mix of joy, sadness, excitement and fear. There’s no reason for fear — it’s going to be amazing for her — but she’s lived with me and Patricia all of her life an now…

…Sorry, I needed a moment there, I’m verklemmt!

As I write this, it’s our last day living together as the family that became complete when my youngest, Anna, was born 19 years ago. Very, very weird.

But there is an adventure to be had. We spent yesterday filling a rental truck with all of Kristina’s worldly goods. Tomorrow, she and I will hit the road for Toronto. We’ve got ‘till

Thursday to get there. For all the times I’ve made the flight, I’ve never done this trip by ground.

So to mark the journey – and the experience — I’ll be posting daily Road Blogs.

Stay tuned!

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