Monday, December 27, 2010
Here is what I posted on Facebook as my 2010 Summary: For the record I will dwell on the months as I return to From The Heart
January the Anticipation Month
February the Ouch Month
March the Resting Month
April the Exercise Month
May the Kayak Month
June the Return Month
July the Royal Month
August the Normal Month
September the Anniversary Month
October the Elephant Month
November the Y Month
December the Gratitude Month
Saturday, September 11, 2010
The big news was that the small town pastor from Florida, Terry Jones, was going to burn the Koran / Quran. At first I thought that the story was a bad joke by the Welsh Monty Python actor / director Terry Jones . Then I realized that in fact that this Reverend Terry Jones was a small time minister who indeed wanted to burn Islam’s Holy Book on September 11th to show his fear of Islam. As I write this blog in the evening of the 11th, he has backed off the threat and there have been no extraordinary attacks or actions as a result of the Florida Jones’s actions.
So what do I make of this? Well Terry Jones the minister has every right to mock Islam and the Koran. American’s can desecrate the Koran, the Stars and Stripes, the Torah, the US Constitution, the Christian Gospels, pictures of Britney Spears and just about anything else. We can even do this in Canada with our flag and just about anything else. The Monty Python Jones directed The Life of Brian which some Christians would likely regard as offensive. Some people have argued that was Jones given a ridiculous amount of publicity: A small town hick is on the front page of all the major newspapers – why? I think the answer is that he is newsworthy because he is so amazingly stupid, dense, insensitive, naive, egotistical, malleable, annoying, tactless and just plain dumb. He makes for example, make the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament look like a Rhodes Scholar. That is why it is news.
So in a way his ranting is a celebration of our western freedom of speech and the remarkable intelligence and decency of just about everybody else. Not a bad way to commemorate this day.
Friday, September 10, 2010
I went shopping to give money to Pakistani flood relief. Here is a partial listing of choices:
• Canadian Red Cross
• Oxfam Canada
• World Vision Canada
• Save the Children Canada
• Care Canada
• SOS Children's Villages
• Doctors Without Borders/MSF
• UNICEF Canada
• International Development and Relief Foundation
• Development and Peace
• Islamic Relief Canada
• UNHCR - the UN's refugee agency
• Human Concern International
• The Humanitarian Coalition
• Focus Humanitarian Assistance
• The United Church of Canada
• Action Against Hunger
• World Food Program
• Relief International
What's more, the federal government is matching until September 12th, dollar for dollar what we, the great unwashed, donate. So $10.00 becomes $20.00, $100 becomes $200 and $500 becomes $1000. At the risk of offending, that makes me uncomfortable. If the government thinks that our tax money should be spent on humanitarian relief, be it flood, earthquake, or tsunami then they should go ahead and spend the money. They should pick a number, be it a million dollars or ten million or one hundred million and go ahead and spend it. Or make a decision to spend nothing. It is their moral and ethical duty to make the decision. They will be judged by Higher Powers, the other countries of the world, and the electorate. But they are elected to decide.
But to tie their obligation and decision into the whim and will of the donating public lacks courage, moral fortitude, and responsibility. It is not only cowardly, but I think smacks of electioneering. It also ties all the recipients to be , at least to a degree, beholden to the elected government. I am likely just about the only one in Canada that thinks that way.
I decided to donate to one outfit that does not get accept the matching gift and that is MÉDECINS SANS FRONTIÈRES (MSF)or Doctors Without Borders. Check them out at
I am glad that I did. Plus the talking heads that you see on morning TV that head up the Big Boys in the charity and aid biz always sound like sleaze balls. That last comment was unnecessary and unfair but that is the fun of having my own blog.
So I feel like I have done a little to help the world tonight. I will enjoy the moment that I have been given with a bit more vigour
Thursday, September 9, 2010
I call the 800 number that comes with the car and the guy comes to put on the donut tire but cautions me not to take it on the highway. I drive to town and the tire guy replaces the valve for $30 bucks. He tells me that the valve was badly rusted
And then I think - what if this had happened on the Queensway? But for the grace of God .......
Monday, September 6, 2010
What makes me guilty is the very expensive briefcase / carrying bag that cost something like $2890 at Harry Rosen's store in Montreal. Of course I did not buy the bag. I could not afford to pay that kind of money for a big pouch with a strap on it and I would view anyone who made that purchase with equal amounts of disdain and jealously. After all, just think how much that $2890 would help the flood relief in Pakistan?
How much indeed? I have given zero dollars to the flood relief. I gave to the Indonesian Tsunami. I gave to Haiti. But why not a dime to the Pakistani Floods? Am I a racist? Do I somehow think that the people there are "less than"? Do I think that the size of Pakistan's military and its capacity for nuclear war makes it unworthy? Or is the flooding a bit too slow for me? It is not a Hollywood disaster, coming out of the clear blue, with a swath of destruction? Or maybe I think that Pakistan is not really our friend as it is way too cozy with the Taliban.
I think of the money that we spent on the train to get to Montreal. At $120 return for the two of us I think of it as an environmentally friendly bargain but $120 is $120. We had our anniversary dinner at Gibby's in Old Montreal - $145.00 before tip (and the place was jammed). Our accommodation was free (we used points)but we had meals and admission charges and Metro (mind you $7.00 per person for unlimited travel 24 hours), That is a lot of aid money.
I am not sure about final judgments and the settling of one's accounts at the end of your life. I have an innate feeling that you do go through some sort of check out as you check out. So how would I explain the weekend to a child that has lost her home and family and now has no medicine to combat a simple intestinal disorder that is killing her? I am sure that she would lump me together with the man who buys the three thousand dollar purse.
I do have to make a choice, do I not?
Sunday, September 5, 2010
Smoked Meat, no not smoked meat, but Montreal Smoked Meat: The secret, spiced, salted, flavoured, not so lean beef, thinly sliced in between two slices of rye bread, slathered with French’s Mustard; sandwich à la viande fumée. And French Fries or pommes frites, shoestring style; hot , greasy, and salted. Oh the agony and the ecstasy. How many calories? How many grams of fat? How many grams of saturated fat? How many times the daily maximum of sodium? How many milligrams of nitrates? But the ecstasy of a nutritional free fall: Do not count calories, points, NDA of fat or sodium. Just inhale the meat, inhale the thin, crisp golden thin wisps of fried in hot grease potatoes.
When in Montréal do as the citizens do. We walked, we walked a lot. My wife and I were there for our eleventh wedding anniversary. We took the train on Friday and experienced three seasons of weather while we were there for just ever 48 hours. From a high of 33 C on the Friday to a low of 15 on Sunday morning, from dead calm on Friday to winds of 60 km/h plus on Saturday from dry to rain we saw it all. We saw doves of peace and love and a man with a gaze seeing something that we could not see wearing his skull covered jacket. We saw men on the streets carrying garbage bags that likely contained their life’s possessions and a singular leather man bag at Harry Rosen’s for $2800. We dined alone and we dined with strangers (in the jowl to jowl intimacy of crowded Montréal restaurants) and we dined with a dear friend. We took the Metro and we walked the Botanical Gardens and we towered above the city atop the old Olympic Stadium. We did it all.
But my once a year (okay, maybe twice) free fall into the nutritional abyss was worth it. I will not name the deli, but it had a name common with my Cardiac Surgeon. So it must have been okay.
Friday, August 13, 2010
I had actually been down to the river shore a bit earlier and watched a bit from my kayak landing spot. Sagittarius was nicely positioned and almost reflecting in the water and I was rewarded by a very bright meteor that left a very distinct trail. The water was like a sheet of glass on a slab of ebony. The sky was like a blanket of black silk on which has been scattered diamonds, sapphires, and rubies. The temperature was dropping so I could see the water vapour condensate from my breath in front of me. I felt like I was an observer at the centre of the universe. Then I figured out that that is exactly what I was.
Anyway, back to the observing chairs. We saw likely five meteors collectively ; one was bright. My wife saw a couple more bright ones while I was staring off in the wrong direction. Nice night and then we were off to bed.
The alarm went off a 3;15 a.m. and I wandered over to the window, secretly sort of hoping for cloud. No such luck so we went outside. The night had chilled and the stars of winter were out. The Pleiades were smudging the sky in the glory that only they can reveal:
|Many a night I saw the Pleiads, rising thro' the mellow shade,|
|Glitter like a swarm of fireflies tangled in a silver braid.|
(Tennyson - Lockley Hall)
Lord Alfred also noticed Orion, or as he said :Many a night from yonder ivied casement, ere I went to rest, did I look on Great Orion sloping slowly to the West.
In our case he was rising from his slumber (Orion, not Tennyson) and more sloping to the east but I the non poet quibble. Tennyson must have been talking about late winter.
But I digress - again the sky was making us so humble, and this time she rewarded us with 20 meteors.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
The Hamburger , as I understand it, is viewed with scorn by Europe and as an excess by Asia and Africa. The Australians and South Americans would view the bun as too much of a detraction to the meat. The only Continent left is Antarctica and I doubt that they care.
So that just leaves North America - three counties - Mexico, the United States of America and Canada. I would be slapped silly by any Mexican if I used Hamburger and Mexico in the same sentence. The United States is collectively too big an eater to be nailed to one food. I am sure the masters of the great barbecues of the South, the vegans of California, and many others would be chasing me down if I tried to label the hamburger as the food of the USA.
But in Canada ...... My wife and I spent a glorious ten days in Newfoundland last year. We were always asking the locals for a good place to eat, implying , but not directly asking, where to eat fish. So many times the answer was that so and so makes "a mighty fine burger". In Ottawa one of the most popular local chains makes burgers so hummungus and so cheese laden that they don't dare print the nutritional information. I challenge anyone to so to a small town restaurant , or a big town restaurant, and not find a hamburger on the menu.
And who does not like the hamburger? In the three in the morning darkness of my mind I crave the fat, the sodium, the nitrates, the protein, the meat of the hamburger. Garnishes - Pickles and ketchup and relish and a slice of Kraft Processed Cheese Food. Sorry Family Doctor, Sorry Cardiologist, Sorry Cardiac Surgeon, Sorry Nutritionist, Sorry Mentor.
But I have resisted the siren call of the burger until the Moment. The Moment had to be there. So today a neighbor's 60th birthday barbecue, friends and neighbors all collected in the garage as it was pouring rain, Stan and John barbecuing outside under umbrellas, and the smell of charring meat on the barbecue. It was the Moment . I had the quintessential food of Canada and never have I felt more patriotic.
Two things for the record:
- The next moment is going to be planned to be at some far point in the future.
- Winnipeg Goldeye hardly ever comes from Lake Winnipeg and the nice red colour is dye.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
I found today's story "Tell me, were you really Miss Grey Cup?" (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/food-and-wine/ian-brown-eats-canada/tell-me-were-you-really-miss-grey-cup/article1664836/ ) strangely unsettling. The story is cute enough. Brown encounters an old grade school chum and is invited the chum's place for dinner. The "Miss Grey Cup" reference is to the chum's mother who Ian had a bit of a thing for 50 years ago. She is alive and very well at 80 and is part of the dinner party. A good story.
What unsettles me is the meal itself. The menu is seven courses "featuring only the best Alberta local ingredients". I won't repeat the whole menu , the reader can check the link (which of course has a limited life) but as one example : bruschetta with heirloom tomatoes from Broxburn Farm near Lethbridge and basil from Calgary's Basil Ranch, all on oiled-and-grilled ciabatta from Lina's Italian Market in Calgary. All seven courses were that special. There was an entire buffalo tenderloin that is supposedly very tough to get. The pasta was made by a lawyer who once spent a month in Italy just learning how to make noodles.
The communal cooks were all wealthy and took a great deal of pride in this meal: Local, Organic, Fresh, Homemade, Meticulously Cooked. Is this what Food Porn is? Maybe I am just being petty and jealous here, I lack the resources or the skill to make a meal such as this. But this clearly is a meal for the wealthy elite.
There is a quote from Tom Standage's "An Edible History of Humanity" from Voltaire "After the year 1500 there was no pepper to be had at Calicut that was not dyed red with blood" Calicut (now Kozhikode for those who care) is / was on the south west Malabar Coast on India. Voltaire was talking about the millions of lives that had been lost, disrupted, and ruined since Roman times in the quest for for unnecessary foods; that is to say spices. One could say the the Western Domination and Colonization of the East would not have happened had it not been for our love of pepper.
So if Pepper was the Original Food Porn, is not our obsession with that impossible to get bison tenderloin the same thing? The people in Ian Brown's story sound like remarkable, intelligent, caring, human beings. And let me state the obvious - I wish I had been there , although I am sure if the likes of me had shown up within camera range of the house I would be in a Calgary Police Cruiser.
But why can't I shake the feeling that this obsession for local and organic is just as evil as setting sail to trade for spices in the Indonesian Archipelago?
Friday, August 6, 2010
So here is what five arterial grafts feel like:
They feel like the Wind and the Sun. Today I paddled with the wind about three or four kilometres down the river to a bridge and then turned into the wind to come home. The sun was in my face, warming it and caressing it like a mother's love. The wind would keep things from getting too hot for comfort, the wind reminded me that change is always there, coming at you to refresh and challenge
They feel like Work and Effort. It is such a pleasure to be able to simply put energy forward, one stroke after the other, one stroke at a time. You may feel like you are making slow progress for the wind is strong yet you know when you make the paddle cut through the water that you will be able to do it again and then again and then again. You have the gift of not just standing still but the gift of progress and advancement.
They feel like Beauty. The river is change and the river is the moment. The river is different at dawn than at dusk. At noon it is one place and at midnight another. The frozen white of a Saturday afternoon in February is so different from the ebony lunar surface just before a summer's storm. The beauty is never ending and today I saw and felt and rode the wonder that existed only today in my moment and will never exist again.
They feel like the Past. How many have paddled this river? How many Algonquin? How many voyageurs? How many log drivers have run the waters and how many perished in the old rapids? Every time out there, I paddle with them. When the tiny callous on my hand reminds me it is there, I think of the working men that toiled on the water.
They feel like the Spirit. There is an energy or a power or a strength or a something out there that is greater than me and maybe even greater than you. The mystics , the saints, the oracles, the witches, the apostles, the monks, the shamans, the holy women, the addicts, all seek the Spirit and so do I. But I am either blessed, or have the delusion of, the connection almost every day.
They feel like the Ordinary Day. Waking up in a warm bed . Having the waking process hastened by hungry cats. The luxury of a breakfast meeting. The sweetness of a canceled conference call. Fish for dinner. An evening walk and run with the beagle
They feel like Love. My wife. Cousins near and far. My Tuesday Night Friends. My Thursday Night Friends. Friends of past, present, and future. Jack the Tweaker of Curries and Souls.
I have no idea what a quintuple bypass looks like, but at least I have the blessing of feeling it.
Monday, August 2, 2010
My wife takes a more Henry David Thoreau approach to things, as least as far as the paddling goes. She wants to contemplate the water lilies and the exposed tree roots and the giant polyp water plants that we saw yesterday. She in fact headed out before me today as I had to attend to the beagle, but as I finally got into the river, I saw her lazily drifting along the shore on the other side of the river. I got in the water and as rapidly as I could, raced out to meet her, slowing down only when I thought that I fell within her gaze.
But then we slowed down. There are indeed water lilies out there that sit on the water like regal princes and princesses surrounded by their green leafed minions. There are water striders out there as well, and as we approached our little water falls, there must have been hundreds in the water, jetting at breakneck speeds (relative to their size of course) They looked to me like a squadron of the hated and despised "Sea Doo" crowd viewed from above. At least they were mercifully silent.
The wonder of the morning was a deer and her fawn staring at us from the banks. They had obviously come down to the water for a drink and were fascinated by the two idiots that were floating out in their river. The little fawn kept staring at me and as I glanced backwards, as I slowly moved away, the look of triumph on her face (Mom, Mom, I sacred them away!!) was evident to even a non wildlife biologist like myself. I am proud of myself that I was able to quietly drift by a small turtle, sunning himself on a log, without making him retreat into the water. I always feel bad when I do that. Just imagine being cold blooded, sitting in the sun and warming up to almost the perfect temperature, and suddenly your security concerns make you jump into the water; it must be like having the hot water cut out half way into your shower.
I also saw what looked like a black duck that a) Swam like a duck in the water, b) did a very conspicuous running across the water take off for flight, and c) perched on a branch for a while. It at first thought to me was the dreaded cormorant but somehow seemed too compressed to be one of those. Maybe a scoter? But those are unusual guests here and I am not sure if they perch.
But pondering the question is quite pleasant. The slow morning in which Mother Nature offered such an exquisite buffet of wonder makes me think of electronic gadgets as the dichotomy. Our desk top computer is starting to hum increasingly loudly which makes us think it is not long for this world. "Fixing the Computer" is not done, so we likely will need something new, but what? A laptop? A netbook? The iPad? I had dismissed even consideration of this less than 24 hours ago , but was reminded by the old (old - 36 months old!) machine's possible death song this morning. My wife has a laptop, I have a work computer, what is this fear of being without that electronic connection? Why do I go crazy if I cannot check the Globe and Mail on line when I want to? Why do I feel so vulnerable when I leave the house without my BlackBerry? Maybe it is because I worry that I would be not able dial 911 should the need arise. Sure
What I really need is less Internet time and more time trying to figure out what that black bird really was. Thoreau, writing in Walden Pond has a great line: " I have always been regretting that I was not as wise the day that I was born" . Great line, and what he says about that ever diminishing wisdom certainly rings true for me. But getting stupider all the time accelerates the search for the return to wisdom and I do think is the search is what matters. You can search with Google and you can search with the paddle ; I am grateful that I am at least wise enough to which one is better.
Sunday, August 1, 2010
I was out for only about half an hour and then back home for coffee and blueberries and yogurt. The blueberries were picked near Pembroke Friday by my wife and you could taste the summer in the berries.
Then it was off to my wife's church were she was singing. Today's readings were about vanity and greed and obsession with things. I am still thinking of getting either a Kindle (new and reduced in price!) a Netbook (reduced in price) or an iPad (new!) I applied a few tests? Do I need any one of these gizmos? No. Will they enable me to do something that I cannot do now? Not really. Will they be obsolete in three years? That would be the optimist's answer. Do I have better things to do with my cash , like pay of mortgages, give to charity, buy something really useful? Yes, yes, yes. Am I just looking to feed my ego? Probably.
A little side bar - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, and the Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest are the current Must Reads of the Western English World. None of the three are available in Canada via Apple or Kindle. ( I learned this in an exploration phase of just maybe justifying the iPad or Kindle.)
After church we went for lunch - we shared an omelette and one heck of something called a Village Salad. Lots of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, a bit too much feta for my cardiologist's liking, but a heavy on vinegar and light on oil dressing to counter balance. Then home for a nap and and then another paddle.
This paddle was with my wife. We explored some of the quiet lagoons of the Madawaska and she took lots of pictures of the water plants and the exposed tree roots that are on many of the banks. We both thought that the setting would be perfect for one of those movies where ordinary things become terrifying when the sun sets. (So much for my evening paddles for a while - maybe my courage will come back next full moon)
Yesterday we drove to Bancroft and stopped by some cottages that we rent just before Thanksgiving. The owner, his daughter, and I compared surgery scars - she won!
I am rambling but so grateful and happy.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Ordinarily I am a Richard Rohr fan. He is a very open minded Franciscan Priest and I like most of what he says. I have what I think is a good line about him: "He is an Atheist who believes in God". I say this as a compliment; he has liberal secular views on everything from sexuality to the environment to war, and yet is able to understand things like addictions both medically and spirituality. I read his daily reflections, have listened to several of his seminars and am joining a study group on him.
So why did he turn me off today? In the Cosmic Christ he floats the hardly original concept that we are all connected and part of one big mass or mess (depending on how you look at it). Christ is nothing more than a piece of silly putty that joins the physical world with the divine world .... sort of a bleeding and punctured thin place. Rocks, amoebas, fishes, rhinoceroses, and people are all brothers and sisters that were born of the Big Bang, and only now, because of Richard, are we figuring this out. Some would argue that I am warping what he said, but it does reflect the way I feel.
Rohr would take snippets of science and snippets of the Hebrew and Christian texts and toss them in the blender with ice, coconut milk, and pineapple and end up with a sort of Saint Paul's Pina Colada with a crucifix piercing the pineapple chunk instead of one of those little umbrellas. I found the result more toxic than tasty.
Am I glad I went? Absolutely without question!!! It is when I have a Spiritual Storm when I am closest to the Spirit. Like in any storm you have to protect yourself. Instead of a sou'wester I use sarcasm. Instead of the oiled leather jacket I use anger. Instead of boots I use resentments. But when the storm subsides, you cast all that stuff aside and look for the rainbow that is always there. Thanks Richard.
Tuesday, June 29, 2010
I suppose I was, looking for a sign that it was time to close the first installment of the blog. My wife is turning it into a Vanity Book as a belated birthday present and I need a close for that wonderful gift. But was that really a sign? And then it happened; back on June 23rd, 2010. I had been on the computer or phone all day, working out of my home. (that is my first full week back at work – I have a great job but the computer, the reports, the phone calls, the on line meetings do have a tedious side) . So when my friend Reg phoned to meet for a coffee in town I jumped at the chance.
Soooo, we are chatting and at 1:41 Eastern Daylight time the ground shook. It was a dull roar that very quickly proved not to be a truck or a loose coffee grinder or elephants tap dancing upstairs. It was a deep, guttural, angry sound that really seemed to come from the bowels of the earth. That line seems hokey but it really captured what I heard and what I felt. Time stands still for some and moves rapidly for others in times of duress and I guess for me it moved quickly. It seemed to be over as soon as it started but when I did my nervous giggle afterwards I felt like I had been given the chance to hear a gentle whisper of warning from a powerful energy that lived with me, but had always chosen to be subdued and hidden. If nothing else, it was the sign to conclude this blog for a while.
I don’t really know when this journey started, maybe it was with my birth, but I started paying attention when the internist at the Queensway Carlton told me to lay off exercise , that it was very likely that I had some severe coronary blockages. I was disappointed to hear that, but not totally shocked; after all I did not have great coronary genes and had multiple years of slothful living both physically and spiritually. But I was hopeful of a quick fix as in 1) it was all a mistake, 2) a pill would fix it, 3) an angioplasty would fix it. I did not want to hear that nothing would fix it.
But the answer I got was indeed the best answer of all: I had a chronic condition that could not be eliminated but I could get a reprieve from the effects of this disease (hmmm, where have I heard that before?). It ll started with my first rate surgery by a first rate surgeon and his team at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. Then I had five days first rate recovery there , watched over my the best guardian angel nurses that could be created. Then I went home under the loving care of a wonderful life partner and a more than understanding view from four cats and a beagle.
I had some simple instructions; eat lots of food from this page and not too much from this page, exercise every day, and take your drugs like a good boy. That is it, a brilliant set up from the UOHI that has been not available for most of the planet’s existence and is not available to the majority of the people on this planet, and a simple set of instructions that even an idiot like me can follow.
So where I am now? I am back at work, I am grateful that I had the time away and I am grateful that I have a job to come back to. I weigh about 20 pounds less than I did a year ago. I am helped organize a Sunday Stretch for fitness. I am practicing to be Major General Robert Bruce for a re-enactment of the 1860 visit of the Prince of Wales to Arnprior.
I do not know what tomorrow will bring. I know that today by the Grace of God, the skill of a myriad of medical professions, the positive energy of prayer, the strength of my friends that I meet with regularly, the good will of my employer, the vision of people like Tommy Douglas, the enormous wealth of the part of the world that I live in, the special energy of the four legged and single tailed in the house, and the love of my wife I am alive and well today. Call it a second chance, call it luck, call it heaven on earth, call it what you feel. I am truly blessed and when the psalmist wrote:
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.
He must have had me on his mind. Thanks Psalm Guy!!!!
Saturday, June 12, 2010
This week past I started back at work on Monday. In theory it was half days but it worked longer each day. On top of that was the daily exercise, a few evening meetings, and getting ready for the Sunday Stretch for McNab Days. Last weekend it was a concert at Neat by Patrick Kearney.
All this not even four months after surgery! I am not bragging. I am not complaining. I am grateful and tired. My wife is sitting about three metres away an working on her computer on actual work stuff, two of the cats are napping even closer than that on cats beds and the beagle is sprawled out on the love seat. One a moment, what a present, what a now.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
- Stop Reading This - There is no shortage of junk and unqualified commentary on the Internet, full of rants, and false information, written and composed by illiterate and unqualified monkeys, that collectively, given a million years and a million keyboards, could not type a single comprehensible, relative, important, sentence - and I am no different. You are far better off looking at anything to do with Monty Python.
- Be Born Rich or Live in a Rich Culture - For this procedure to work or even get done, you have to be rich and a food, energy, and resource gluten. Ebenezer Scrooge, before his encounter with the spooks, is a good role model. Bear in mind that you personally do not necessarily have to be rich, but you have to live in a culture that is rich. Lots of roads packed with cars, grocery stores full of fresh strawberries all year round, lots of angst about the next generation of TV, and the inability to see stars at night due to light pollution are all good signs that your culture is rich enough.
- Have a Good Employer - I work for a company that thinks its employees are its most importance asset A company that understands that life happens and things happen and sometimes you need help and time to recover. Of all the things that play on one's mind during this opportunity for health, economic insecurity did not burden me .
- Have a Good Family Doctor - She is going to be your advocate and motivator, a cry and worry shoulder, a mentor, a coach, and an auditor on the work of others.
- Believe in a Power Higher Than Yourself - Okay, maybe you are the King of the World just like that guy in the movie about that ship that sank, but I found it essential to believe and have faith in a force or energy or entity that has true power. God, Allah, SOAPE (Source of All Positive Energy), and Yogi Bear are just some examples. (It's personal)
- Have, Hire or Hold a Good Spiritual Adviser - In the flesh is better than just in media, but any port will do in a storm.
- Do As You Are Told - I sometimes think that the most insulting thing that you can say to someone in today's time and world is "Do this!" We seem to get bent out of shape at any hint of direction but my advice is this: If a general practitioner, , a cardiac surgeon, a cardiologist, physiotherapist, a pharmacist, exercise consultant, dietitian, and most importantly of all a nurse tells you to do something, DO IT.
- PEFL - Every day Pray (or meditate) , Exercise (within your sensible guidelines so that your partner does not have to curb your enthusiasm) , have Fun (which includes being silly) and Learn something (which does not include silly stuff, so reading mailings from the Woman Who Claims to Be Our Member of Parliament does not count) . Thank you Jim Clarke for this idea!
- Have A Partner- There are many reasons to say "I do" at the alter, on the beach, at the city hall or maybe just in your own mind. And there are many benefits to the "I do", but the biggest benefit is knowing that when you fall, there will be someone to catch you.
- Have a Family - For when the partner needs a break.
- Have Friends - A friend does not have to be a kindred spirit, bosom body sort of individual, although that does not hurt. Sometimes the person that you sit beside in a meeting, someone who does a silent or maybe public prayer for you, someone who covers for you at work, someone who waves when you walk down the driveway for the first time by yourself. You have friends, you just have to be aware.
- Share a House with Pets - They put you in the place in the universe where you belong.
- Share Your Gratitude- You are so damn lucky that this procedure is taking place and you can never fully repay the debt. But the least you can do is make a few minimum payments. Donate something to something. Share your time for a clean-up in the local park. Give money for shipping bikes to, I don't know, Africa or some place. You never know what happens when you go to that Big Accounting Office in the Sky - better to start paying off your debts early.
- Live in the Moment - That, at times, will be your refuge. Enjoy that breath, feel the pillow against your head, smell the outside air for the first time after your surgery. The moment is all that you have.
- Have Fun - That sounds crazy, but it is not; fun is in the eye of the beholder. Compared to an awful lot of procedures out there, a bypass is a snap. Just don't overplay the fun card.
- Buy an Expensive Kevlar Carbon Sea Kayak - The Impex Serenity Sport from Ottawa Valley Kayak and Canoe (perhaps this does not apply to everybody)
Sunday, May 23, 2010
The bottom picture is me 3 months ago - February 23rd, 2010. The top picture is me a week ago on my birthday. Bit of a difference.
Three months ago today, at about this time, I was oblivious to the world, relying on machines, the skill of doctors, nurses, technicians, and God's Grace to keep alive. Today I went for a bike ride and did my first paddle of 2010. I have already spoken about how wonderful it is to be back on the old Kona. Today I hauled the Palmico down to the water. It was so nice to wade into the Madawaska, the water unseasonably warm , with just a little bit of wave action today. My wife was with me to again curb my enthusiasm. We did a lazy paddle but it was so nice to be cutting through the water with only the sound of the paddle and the kayak sluicing. The wind was warm and dry and the sun was a bit muted by a few clouds. We did not go to a dam, we did not even go to the little falls, before we came back. But I had kayaked!
I must say the the bike ride and the paddle tuckered me out. My cardiologist has given me a pretty good bill of health (in fact I do not see him again until May 30, 2011) and I have the okay to go back to work June 7th. I am looking forward to getting back in the saddle but they tell me that stamina is going to be an issue and I believe them.
But today, the Sunday before Victoria Day 2010 gave me, yet again, plenty of fireworks of gratitude.
Friday, May 21, 2010
Seven months ago today was October 21st, 2009. The late afternoon was sort of cloudy and rainy and even a bit on the cool side. I had been jogging since early July (well, not continuously, bet pretty religiously 4 times a week). At the start it was slow going – I would jog for 30 seconds and walk for two minutes and do that cycle for 30 minutes. But on the 17th of October I had jogged 30 minutes straight, just so I could prove to myself that I could do it. And so on the 21st I was doing ten and ones with some confidence and pride.
I was doing the last 300 metres or so when I saw my neighbour Anne walking her little dog. Anne is an Iron Man; she had completed that unbelievably harsh swim / cycle / run race in Lake Placid back the previous summer. I could not slow down in her field of vision, so I put on the gas, so to speak. Hmmm, a bit of a strange pain in the chest. As a middle aged runner I was used to everything hurting at one time or another. But this was weird: light pain but accompanied by a bit of pressure. OMG - it’s my heart! It’s not my heart!
Well, the regular reader knows that it was my heart, so today, seven months after that little bit of pain and almost three months after my surgery, here are some of the things I am grateful for:
1-God or Providence or my Higher Power or whatever it was that had a doctor’s appointment already, long arranged for me the following day, October 22nd. And for the continued outflow of blessings that have overflowed my chalice from that Source of all Positive Energy.
2-My personal family physician who was smart enough, and thorough enough, and tenacious enough to arrange a prompt appointment at the Queensway Carlton Hospital for a myocardial perfusion scan. And that was only the start – she really carried a lot of my burden for these seven months.
3-The technicians and internist at the Queensway Carlton who were able to do the test on me (even getting their hands on radioisotopes that of course were unavailable from Chalk River) and tell me that there is a concern. At the time they scared the pants of me, but in retrospect better safe than sorry. And thanks that they “rushed” the results.
4-Ilona for being the big sister that I did not have. For her words of inspiration and support and affection that rushed across the wilds of Ontario – a sort of Sirocco of Love in fact.
5-The doctors in the family.
6-The University of Ottawa Heart Institute. The first face I saw was the smiling woman in medical reception; how courteous, how professional, and how calming. Little did I know that this was the standard for everybody there: Housekeepers, OR Nurses, PAU Nurses, Ward Nurses, Cardiologists, Interns, Cardiac Surgeons, Food Service Workers, Admissions Staff, Anesthetists, Physiotherapists, Mentors, Dieticians, Volunteers, Blood Techs, Cardiogram Techs, Stress Test Techs, X-Ray Techs and the folks I have forgotten. The only scary thing – everybody is so wonderful, that when you wake up after surgery, you think that you have died and gone to heaven.
7-The congregation at St. John Chrysostom Church in Arnprior. I do not belong to the Parish and I am not even Catholic but the folks there prayed for me and Father Joe inspired them to do so. The choir even sang to me.
8-The prayers from Main and Lees.
9-My very good friend Father Jack who helped me breathe and helped me see.
My friends like Maris and Kathy and Al and Jack and Janice and Rose and Ambrose and Reg and many others who kept me strong many nights.
10-Judy who makes the best damn lemon meringue pie in the OV.
11-Neat and Castlegarth for reviving the taste buds.
12-The folks like Tommy Douglas who thought that a Public Health and Medicine Medicare plan was not some type of wild eyed communist plot that would destroy our level of care, but was instead a basic human right that gives dignity, care, and courage to all.
13-My employer for having a plan that gave me time to heal without losing pay and maintaining a benefit plan that covered most of my additional costs. And to my pals at work that helped carry the load.
14- John and Grant for your timely return to Ottawa.
15- The Gravenhurst Team – all who grew up there and thought of me.
16-All who sent cards, books and music and those who waved their encouragement from the road as I did my first walks.
17-Susan who dreams of blue delphiniums nodding over the spread of cheddar pinks as purple coneflowers sway in the breeze and helped me hone the skill of wasting time.
18 - Seb, who I have yet to meet, but is allowing me to help people who need it.
19- Mikla, Melnoga, Pipars, Vaira and of course Barney.
20- And finally and most importantly - my wife: in 1996 on the beach at Engure , looking at the darkness of the Baltic with the stars lighting up the froth of the waves in that phosphorescent glow – I knew then what I know now. My wife had a year of challenges but she put everything on hold for me. How blessed is that?
No doubt I have missed a lot on this list. But it is Victoria Day Weekend Friday and my wife and the beagle and I are heading out for ice cream – the gratitude just keeps piling up like a February blizzard’s snow.
Saturday, May 15, 2010
So I am stuck with my own Freedom 55. I was born in the fifth month of 1955 on the fifteenth day, so that makes today, May 15th, 2010 my 55th birthday. And I did experience Freedom 55 today. Today I hopped on my bicycle for the first time in about seven months and went for a 2 kilometer ride. I do not posses the skill in prose to tell you how wonderful that was. It was like being in something like 1965 or so and getting my first bike from Canadian Tire. It was a red Supercycle, one speed and the brakes naturally were just the reverse pedal. I had to wheel it home from the store as I did not know how to ride. But the day came where I learned. It was like flying. I could move faster than I had ever moved myself. I could cover distances. I now had power to be where I wanted to be – okay, as much power as my parents would grant me. With no helmet the wind was in my hair as I happily and contently pumped past the granite and pines of the Muskoka byways and roads. It was crossing one of the Rubicons of life and no Springsteen driving song could describe the affection. (sorry Bruce and Danny hovering in heaven)
So today I had the okay from Sandra, my University of Ottawa Heart Institute Mentor to ride. Under the watchful eye of my wife (who is there to curb my enthusiasm in the interests of my health and longevity) I pumped up the tires, put on my helmet and went for a spin. Down the road the wind was behind me and it was as if I were propelled by Heart Spirits as I glided past the home of the neighbours. I did the turn at the end of the single kilometer and was reminded that the laws of motion had not changed. Going against the wind still sucked. But no matter, I was back in the saddle. Watch your back Lance.
My Freedom 55 blesses more than just me. I pledged $3.00 a day for Bicycles for Humanity Ottawa so that they can help healers and educators and first responders get from A to B in Malawi. I went in for my Quintuple Bypass on February 23rd, 2010 and first rode today May 15, 2010. So if my math is right that is 81 days. So if I round that up to 90 days that means that they get $270!! (the check is almost in the mail Seb)
Please indulge me by letting me get on a soap box and preaching a bit. (it is my birthday after all:
We all like to whine. (at least I do). The HST is going to bankrupt me. There is not enough snowmelt in the Ottawa River this year. Hospital ERs are jammed. Solar Power is going to bankrupt me. There are bad priests. The Prime Minister has no soul or vision. But here is the deal – Our health care system is the best on the planet that has ever been. Surgeries and treatments are done on a routine basis that would have been a dream to us 20 years ago and still are a dream to most of the planet. The debt that I have to this system I cannot pay. But what I can do is make a concrete gesture (in this case with a bit of money) to toss one shovelful of hope that levels things just a tiny bit.
If anyone reading this had had anything medical done to them this year – be it fixing a smashed nose or help in recovering from an addiction or even getting your teeth cleaned I would beg of you to consider grabbing a shovel or even a tablespoon of gratitude and tossing into that great unevenness that exists in Africa. What difference can such a minuscule effort make? Just consider what happened (on the afternoon of May 15th at that!) to Horton and JoJo (that is from Horton Hears a Who for those whose brain is at low tide)
My Freedom 55 Day is far from over but I did want to talk about the freedom so far. I am a blessed man living in blessed times.
Monday, May 10, 2010
So today after signing in, I hang out on the first floor waiting area just outside the PAU (Pre Admission Unit). I see the singles and I see the couples and I see the families. It really is a Red Letter Day for everybody there. People waiting for tests. People waiting for surgery. People getting their pre surgery instructions. People holding small bags for their clothing. Everybody going into surgery wears the same fashion. No room for Jeanne Becker here.
If there is a common thread here it is the thread of hope. Hope is contagious and in a way you, as a patient or a support and love person are united in this silent bond of hope. There is no chalice of wine here, nor host. Yet the sense of Communion drifts invisibly and powerfully from occupied seat to occupied seat. It is quite powerful.
Out of the blue my cardiac surgeon passes by and says "How ya doin'?". I resist my smart ass desire to reply that we will know in about 45 minutes. I just nod my head up and down vigorously and say I am doing great. I am not sure if he really recogizes me with my clothes on anyway.
What's that? My name is being called and off I go to the tread mill. First a few checks to ensure that I am who I say I am. I sign a release to okay full medical intervention if needed. Shirt off - lay on my back and get the electrodes glued onto me. It is old hat, the little shave you get, the cool gel that gets rubbed on you. Some may find this erotic, but not me. I get the Blood Pressure cuff, and plugged in, and then on the tread mill.
This is a BIG DEAL. I have not exerted myself since mid October. No bike rides or kayak paddles yet. My daily walks have been modest in effort, I have made sure that my HR did not go much above 100 bps. Even with my beta blocker infused blood that was modest. For almost seven months I have not broken out in a sweat. Not once had I had been conscious of my heart pounding like it does when running or cycling or kayaking or some other activity of pleasure. What if I heard a big POP, the technician shouting "Oh Shit!" and then blackness, awakening, and then facing my lifetime of shortcomings and failures item by item by item.
I saw the computer screen but I will not interpret the data myself. I meet my UOHI mentor on Friday and my cardiologist on May 20. I will just say that in the end I was out of breath, I was panting, and I could hear my heart pounding. Best of all I felt wonderful.
I got dressed and was walked backed into the waiting area. Communion was still being celebrated and I gladly took part.
Friday, May 7, 2010
It has been a busy week. Last weekend was the retreat at Galilee, Tuesday evening was the Murray McLauchlan Concert in Renfrew and Wednesday was Contemplative Mediation with Jack Lau OMI at the Arnprior Public Library. Mixed in with all of this was a side trip to Foymount , a conference call for the day job that I hope to return to in the next while, lunch in Eganville, getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist, my weekly meeting with my mentor at the UOHI, getting the riding mover fixed, tent caterpillar executions (very not Franciscan – Richard Rohr may shun me), learning that my tentative role in the Prince and the Prior is Major General Robert Bruce, and doing the usual solo and dog walks.
Murray was playing in the O’Brien Theatre in Renfew. This movie theatre will be celebrating its 80th anniversary on June 25th. It has a large theatre pipe organ and a stage. Not a great stage (no wings ) but a stage none the less. It was from here where this mini tour of Lynn Miles (she opened) and Murray McLauchlan started. If you don’t know Lynn Miles, you should. Judge for yourself: http://www.lynnmilesmusic.com/home.html
FYI – she does great shadow puppets.
Murray McLauchlan is , well, Murray McLauchlan. He is a Canadian Music Icon and knows his music and knows his shtick. With bass player Dennis Pendrith he entertained solidly for over 90 minutes. Don’t like the Farmer’s Song and Down by the Henry Moore? Maybe you would be better off with Lady Gaga.
I actually accosted (well, maybe that is too strong a word) Murray as he was walking up the aisle after the concert and I told him that I loved his concerts and I saw my first one in something like 1975 at the University of Waterloo. He said “Thanks man” and shook my hand. I desperately wanted to say something clever but the best I could do is offer him my half eaten bag of popcorn. I told him that I wanted to show my gratitude but all I had was the popcorn. He politely declined, explaining that he had had a big bowl of soup. I hope that this was not my 15 minutes of fame.
More on the rest of my week later.
Sunday, May 2, 2010
I thought it was an amazing weekend. Jim Clarke took us though his perspective on the body, spirit, and soul. Jim is trained in religion, philosophy, and psychology. He is an expert on peace building and ritual. He is a gifted story teller and a skilled facilitator. I am not going to diminish what he gifted us with other than share one perspective and a bad poem. (mine, not his)
But first a bit on the beauty and serenity of the Galilee Centre itself. It is situated on the shore of the Ottawa River, just upriver from the confluence with the Madawaska. Just adjacent to the main house is the Gillies Grove. The Grove is 45 acres of Old Growth Forest, with well marked, easy trails. Walking the trail is as quiet as a cathedral; the noise, such as it is, from Arnprior is muted. Cathedrals have great man made works of art. Here the frescos are painted by Mother Nature , the quiet greens and grays of the white pine in winter are being supplemented by the rich fresh greens of spring. The trilliums are just coming out in the whiter than white than a detergent commercial can do.
You can walk down a trail to the banks of the Ottawa to a natural gravel beach. The beach is not long but it again is as nature made it. If you walk as far as the upstream property line you will see, a bit of a distance away, the splendor of a green lawn that seems to jut out into the river. Pristine and as elegant as any Augusta Georgia golf green it is a testament to what our species can do to a river. I hope the owners enjoy every moment. Walk back downstream to return to the trail back to Galilee.
Are the great houses of worship in Europe beautiful? I am told they are, but I have to say in my limited viewings in London, England and in Spain I found them Houses of Worship and not Homes of Worship. Take the time to go to the little chapel in the Galilee Centre and sit. No stained glass, just a view of a tall white pine and behind that the Ottawa. It sure felt like home to me.
We were instructed to go out during the retreat and do what the Spirit directed us to do. We were also asked to draw a picture, or write a story, or do a body moment like a dance.
Here is my direction:
The Spirit told me to check my heart plumbing out by walking down to the beach. I had my water sandals and shorts on, and I waded for a while in the water. It was frigging cold. I saw others that were staring into the horizon and others were aimlessly scratching things on the beach with sticks. The Spirit then commanded me “Stop goofing around looking like you are some kind of wannbe Saint. Get out of the water, pick up that garbage you see, and bring it up the trail. Your heart plumbing will hold out” It did.
And here is my poem:
I look around and I realize that I know nothing about anything,
I make a list of what I fear and it is everything,
The absolute nadir always strikes at my soul’s midnight,
When thinking about the past or future fills me with fright,
But then something makes me see that all these demons are in a phony pose,
It is the Lord Jesus Himself , on a unicycle, and wearing a bright red clown nose.
I think I got my money’s worth at the retreat. (and if you don’t understand my poem please write)
Thursday, April 29, 2010
I had never been to yoga and I must say that I was a bit nervous. I was worried about giggling and worried about being totally inept. The two are more interconnected than one would think. If I cannot do something I stress, when I stress my one fallback involuntary reaction is to giggle. When I start to giggle I stress more which makes me giggle. I was afraid of being stuck on the floor, giggling hysterically, ruining the class for everybody and then skulking away in humiliation. Fortunately, nothing like that happened.
Paula is a very smart and gentle (at least to us beginners) instructor. The first deed was to lay on the mat and breath. Close your eyes and breath. Take in as much air as you can. Try and slow down the breathing rate. Try to take a bit more time to breathe out than you do in. Really concentrate on the breathing and you body. It was easy and hard to do that.
I cannot remember all the gentle movements that we did. I learned how stiff and inflexible my body is at this point. For example - at one point we were flat on our backs on the floor. Our arms were to be flat on the floor just straight out from our shoulders and then we were to bend at 90 degrees at the elbow in a sort of "hands up - you are under arrest position". I could not do that and sill be flat on the ground - I needed a bit support in terms of foam blocks.
A few moves required a bit of pressure on the sternum and I could hear my wife whispering for me to be careful. Which was a good reminder - it is amazing how easily we forget.
I am really rambling - I must say that the night is a bit of a fog even though it took place just 24 hours ago. But I like yoga , I shall return and write more.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
I mention this because it makes me reluctant to introduce to my readers, bloggers who are better than me - I mean what if they get on Oprah and not me? But there is a blog I am compelled to pass on:
Mr. Pearson is a Liberal MP from London Ontario. (the MP for London North Centre). His blog "The Parallel Parliament" is a well written, intelligent, perspective on politics and government. Sure , he is a Liberal, and is at times partisan, but mildly and reasonably so.
Regular readers may recall that I often refer to the local MP where I live as the Woman Who Claims to be our Member of Parliament. In my own mind I regard that as a funny and sarcastic indictment of her. Maybe no one else may think that, but I will explain more on Oprah. Our MP is wildly popular but I find her troubling. She is no supporter of gay rights, equates abortion with beheadings by terrorists, and constantly plays the Big City / Big Money conspiracy card. She creates the illusion that forces of dark and evil require constant vigilance. I find it extremely distasteful and almost frightening. Some of the most evil regimes in history have played this card early in their ascents to power. I would be guilty of her sins if I continued to join the dots, but it is something that does pass through my mind.
That is why I find Mr. Pearson's writing so refreshing. He seems as opposite to the Woman Who Claims to be our Member of Parliament as can be. By the way ..... Mr. Pearson, should you ever read this, and should you make it to Oprah instead of me, any chance that you can get me her autograph?
Saturday, April 24, 2010
I was going to use the Call of the Loon to go for my first paddle but a deal with my UOHI Mentor is a deal. I will be happy if the loons talk to my wife as she paddles.
- Wake Up
- Make coffee and breakfast
- Do abbreviated beagle walk
- Go to Weight Watchers ( I lost)
- Walk around town for Earth Day (better late than never) - speak to Ottawa River Keeper, speak to Rotary Club about Haiti Relief Project, buy two jars (the last two) of Buckwheat Honey
- So grocery shopping. Deliberately park car as far away as I can, which turns out to be dumb as I buy more than I planned.
- Romantically, for my wife, buy yellow tulips and tastefully (I hope) put them in vase for her to see when she gets home for late lunch. This is not so good for planet on Earth Day but no worse than the raw spinach that I bought as well. (Going to try calamari and spinach salad tonight)
- Go home and make chicken, butternut squash, carrot, mushroom, chickpea soup. Have to fight off cats and beagle while I debone chicken. Cats, beagle, and especially chicken not happy.
Friday, April 23, 2010
I can’t remember the weather myself after about nine in the morning, as that was the day of my quintuple bypass surgery. So two months later it is a good time to reflect.
Prior to that day I had only limited bad experiences: I had never spent the night in a hospital and had never had my body incised, although I did once sit next to the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament. I had made it as far as the door to the OR two weeks prior, so that part I knew. But what was beyond the door I knew not. I did not fear death. I figured that death had the options of being either Eternal Nothing or The Big Audit. I was prepared for the Eternal Nothing as I had already (sorry for repeating myself) already sat next to the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament. And no last minute mumbo jumbo was going to make The Big Audit better or worse – you are measured by your actions, not words. I did fear for my wife coping if I died, but I did not fear death for myself. Stroke and disability were a different matter entirely, but in reality, the odds against death, stroke, and disability were pretty good.
I feared waking up and not knowing where I was, I feared the breathing tube, and I feared pain. So what happened? Well, the instant I became aware, I knew that I was in a recovery bed. I knew that it had to be the ICU but in my memory I was in a massive room and there were no other patients there. But I knew I was in good hands and had no fear. I had played the breathing tube thing over and over in my head. I thought that it would be miserable: I thought that I would not be able to speak because of it, and I thought that it would be painful. I barely remember the breathing tube, although I clearly remember Nurse Kevin talking about removing it. There was a low level of pain and discomfort in my chest but it never got unmanageable (i.e. manageable as by Tylenol)
I have already written about the five nights at the University of Ottawa Heart Institute. I am not going to repeat it here, other than to say, yet again, that I found this health facility to be amazing and I would recommend to anyone on the planet.
I had planned to read and read and read during my recovery. And I planned to watch Ken Burns' documentaries. I love to read and I really need to watch more TV. (Aside from Anda: "?????") Yet during the first month I did not want to read a lot. I think I read two books which is much lower than my usual consumption. I think that my brain wanted to rest from absorbing the thoughts of others. I did a lot of thinking, just like Plato. I did a lot of napping, just like Pluto. Thinking and Napping are two real luxuries.
I don’t think that the napping part requires an explanation, but I really do want to expand about the Thinking. Thinking, with a capital T, is a real luxury. Ordinarily, my brain is as cluttered as any living space that I am allowed to be in. I think about short term needs and commitments to outside forces that are insignificant and transitory and mundane. As artificial in power and relevance as they are, they are still like something foul on the soles of your shoes: they require attention. But those things are on hold and being handled by others. So, I have been able to Think over the last 60 days. Think about my good fortune, Think about the Grace of God in all things having molecular structure, Think about the wisdom of my friends that I often meet in the evenings, Think about silence, Think about trying to hear the message, Think about duty, Think about obligation, Think about my weakness, Think about the amazing amount of resources that have been bestowed on me, Think about the people that I have come to know better, Think about how to love, Think about how to be loved. I often will just sit and Think.
I know that the great multitaskers of the world would mock this. They would say that they exercise, watch an educational DVD, text the office, and do their taxes at the same time. Only a fool or simpleton would squander valuable time just sitting and thinking. That is sloth beyond imagination. Well maybe. But the next time that I see an elderly person that is sitting in a chair and perhaps staring vacantly, I think that I will know why that curl of a smile is on their face.
60 days!! I am walking 4K a day. Let’s just say that my running is on hold. I spoke with my UOHI Mentor today and we agreed to back off cycling for two weeks and kayaking for four. I am allowed to get my heart rate up to 30 bps above rest. My blood fats and sugars are where they are supposed to be. The sternum is almost whole. But I still tire easily and I still have several things to check off on the list before I go back to work.
The only thing that I still cannot adequately convey is my profound sense of gratitude. It is in my heart and in my soul – I just can’t make it appear in words. I guess I will have to just take two out of three.
Thursday, April 22, 2010
As a poor Jew growing up in Palestine, he would have thought that losing weight was weird. His audience would have thought the same. Can you imagine the parable?
There was once a man who was cursed by too much food. No matter where he looked there was food. What’s more, demons made him eat the food. He had been a little peckish at times in his life, but he had never known real hunger. Instead he ate when he was happy and he ate when he was sad. At times the man had nothing to do. He did not have to collect sticks for his fire or harvest grain or work at backbreaking labour. This doing nothing was called being bored and the demons made the man eat when he was bored. The man kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger and had to get bigger and bigger robes. He got so big that he could no longer fit into his house and had to sleep outside. The demons did not like being cold, so they left him, but the man kept eating. The demons then realized that they had nothing to do with the man eating! But they did not want the man to know that. So the demons went out and got fancy robes to dress themselves in. They put water in bottles, added a bit of spice and told the man that if he paid them a piece of gold a week, he could partake in drinking this water and it would make him thin. And the demons became rich and the man stayed fat.
But 2000 years ago that parable would have made no sense so Jesus would not have said it. Maybe he would have said something like this:
There once was a very wise king who knew the land very well. He knew how many subjects he had and he knew the size of his vineyards and how many fields of sheep there were on the hillsides. He knew how many fields of wildflowers there were and he knew how much land a mother bear needed to raise her cubs. He knew that he had a great trust that was imposed on him as a result of the gift of his wisdom. The Great Trust was the Great Balance. He knew that the needs of his subjects and the needs of the wildflowers and the needs of the mother bear were always to be in balance and harmony with each other.
So the king figured out the needs of each subject and put in enough vineyards and fields of sheep so that each child, woman, and man would always have plenty. And yet there would be space for the wildflowers to bloom and the mother bear to nurture. But some of his subjects took more than their need. This caused the wildflowers to wilt and the bears to flee the land. With no wildflowers and no bears the balance and harmony collapsed and there was great wailing and gnashing of teeth.
So what if that had been the parable? The homilist today would no doubt say :“Have a good Earth Day and do not exceed your Weight Watchers' Daily Points”
Monday, April 19, 2010
We had a good weekend. There was the monthly contemplative service over at the Galilee Centre; unique in many ways but particularly interesting in that it involves periods of silence. One of the readings was from John’s Gospel where the risen Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him. Three times! So, was Jesus slow on the uptake, or was he just a little conceited and liked to have the disciples grovel a bit? Or is there more to it than that? Is perhaps Jesus saying that following his lead of loving your enemy and not seeking revenge and not loving commercial stuff is a hard road to follow and you had better think before you really say that you are on the road? But is that right? I have no idea but it is good to think about it.
So - on Saturday I did my first running since October 24th of 2009. I did 7 cycles of one minute of running and a two minute walk. I felt good about that and even posted my deed on Facebook, enjoying the little positive affirmations that my friends sent me. I even stretched after the run! I had the okay to start jogging from a few folks – my cardiac surgeon and my fitness person from my regular doctor's clinic. On Monday (today) I got my first call from my Mentor from the UOHI. It is her function to help me with my exercise and rehab. She was aghast that I was running and told me that it is way too early. I must say that I felt a little crushed – is it okay to run or not? In my mind I had the okay, and was doing it very cautiously and did not expect the rebuke.
But one thing that I have learned about being upset about comments, is that I usually feel the person has a point and I just don’t like admitting it. Here is what happened. I felt a bit arrogant by Sunday afternoon. I had done the run, walked the poor beagle over 6 km on the weekend and was already planning to hop on the bike. Just before my wife got home late Sunday afternoon I developed a pain in my side while adding to the dog’s waking regime. It felt like a runner’s stitch or pulled muscle and was on my left side, about half way down the chest. A year ago I would have either done nothing or popped a couple of Robaxacet . But now I am a bit smarter so it was off to the local hospital to the ER. I was chewing on Aspirins and getting an ECG within 10 minutes of checking in. As the ECG was normal, the STEMI Protocol, prominantly displayed on a poster next to my ER gurney, was not activated. I was grateful. The blood tests showed nothing in the marker enzymes, but they require a second test 6 hours after the first, which would have been 2:00 a.m. ; in the local hospital the lab is closed long before then. So I lay on the ER gurney until 2:30 a.m. and then was checked into a hospital room / bed. Laying on the little gurney was a great time to contemplate and think about life, and readings, and meanings. I thought of all the ER has seen and yet again, how blessed I was. To make a long story short – I was out of the hospital by 1100 a.m. with a clean bill of health. It may have just been a muscle strain. Sooooo, maybe my UOHI Mentor had a point. I will take a little easy.
Again my poor wife did all the heavy lifting. She was the chauffer and then had to go home to retrieve my drugs. (no drug list, no check into hospital). She gets a break away weekend and then is back to minding and worrying about me. I am one lucky guy.
Friday, April 16, 2010
Return to Running
I was running when this journey started and it is to running that I shall return. (sounds dramatic!) . My pal Jessica over at the West Carlton Family Health Team ( she is one of the fitness consultants) is keen to have me put a date in the book that she and I can run 5K together. That is still in the “Yikes!!” category for me , but I am going to start from square one , doing a one minute run and a two minute walk for an initial total of 21 minutes, three times a week. I have been walking by 4K a day so I figure that I am ready to take it up a notch. The docs and the therapists and mentors tell you to do this while listening to your body and I will do just that. In theory I could be doing ten and ones sometime in July but I will do things one day at a time.
I even went to the Running Room to get a snazzy new running shirt and a stretching rope thing. I figure that I may be slow, and I may be clumsy but I will look natty.
Going to Yoga
I am signed up for yoga for Wednesday ! It will be the first time ever in the existence that I know about I have tired yoga. I am frightened of two things: 1) Making a fool of myself by being as flexible as a Gumby left at Absolute Zero overnight , and 2) Making a fool of myself by hysterical giggling. When I am nervous, I giggle and the more that I want to stop the more I giggle. But I have been getting stiffer and less flexible since spending that time and I am told that yoga is a possible fix.
Paula the Instructor is willing to lend me a mat for the first sessions. I will back off ordering Lululemon Gear until I see how this works.
Back to Weight Watchers
What can I say? I need to lose pounds and pounds. I know WW works. So I am just , like the Swish People Who Resurrect the Words of the Dead Out of Context to Neutralize the Actions of Their Most Expensive Commodity. I am going to Just Do It.
I weigh in tomorrow morning.
Monday, April 12, 2010
The same goes for the pain in the sternum - every once in a while it will produce a very minor ache, but I have not had to take Tylenol for weeks. In the early days I thought I would become a Tylenolhead, but fortunately that did not happen. Maybe it is just thinking about it, but today seems like a day when the thing wants to act up a bit.
One of the things that I was warned about as a possible side effect of surgery was depression. I initially dismissed this worry, as I have never in my understanding of the word, suffered from depression. So I was surprised to have a visitor. I have been suffering from a low level background feeling of angst or worry about health, job, money, state of the planet, relationships, cats, dog, exercise, stupid letters written by now dead bishops from a church that I do not even belong to, online Globe and Mail comments posts, too much rain, not enough rain, housework, yard work, riding movers, the smartness of Ontario’s payments to Samsung, taxes, and other stuff. (Strangely I am not depressed about the Woman Who Claims to be Our Member of Parliament – she always brings a smile to my face) . I am either suffering from a moderate background depression (sort of Charcoal Puppy versus Black Dog) or it is the first signs of becoming a cranky old man. It is a bit like being in Kinburn and looking at the night sky: it is dark, but not Algonquin Park dark, as the lights of Ottawa and even Arnprior are making their presence known. That is the Charcoal Puppy.
I am lucky in that I hang out with some spiritual minded and smart people that I can meet up with most nights of the week. Going there makes a big difference. I am grateful and thankful for all that I have been given, but it is still interesting how this rumbling malaise IS there. Again, I am thankful for the lesson, as it gives me the chance to journey in the steps of others.
Another thing that still surprises me is the fatigue. Today I got up and made coffee and breakfast for my wife and myself, took the beagle out for a very short walk, then went for a gentle 2 K walk myself, came home, made some work related (keeping oar in water) phone calls, went via car with the beagle to get a chai, came home, made a sandwich for lunch and then I had to take a nap. The point is that the morning was not that strenuous and yet it tired me out.
There are two things that I want to do. The first is getting on my bicycle. The magic date, after some research, has proven to be two months after my operation which makes it April 23rd. (I would sneak out earlier but my wife who is caregiver / cardiac supervisor would not approve. She is away this weekend, but if I went for bike ride the cats would squeal) . There is a bit of an advantage for delaying the big ride. I am still putting aside money for each day that I do not ride to the African Caregiver Team, which includes the very green first responders, educators, medicine providers and others (check out the Bicycles 4 Humanity Ottawa link on the right)
The next thing on my list is to get the kayak in the water, but it looks like that is not going to happen until May Two Four Weekend. At least the water will be above death temperature. The kayak thing is going to be tough to delay though – I think that I may go out as soon as I here the first loon calling. I will just stroke gently.
So I still maintain that I am one very lucky person. Get rid of the fatigue and keep the Charcoal Puppy on her leash and I will be better than ever. And I just thought of this – puppies don’t like bikes and don’t like kayaks.
Monday, April 5, 2010
I saw my cardiac surgeon back last Wednesday and news was good. He said that my prognosis is excellent. I was given the okay to drive and to carry stuff around that is over 4 kilograms. The latter is good news for one of our more robust cats who likes to be carried around by me.
Driving is so intrinsic to our society that you do realize the power that it has until the right is taken away from you. It is small wonder that the removal of this privilege from the elderly is so traumatic. Anyway, I am back on the road, polluting the air and doing my part to bring us closer to Climate Change Armageddon. At least we might get 1000 years of decent Arctic Ice out of it, depending on which Satan gets tossed into the pit without bottom.
I have the okay to continue my walking and I am negotiating with my wife when I can start to cycle and to kayak. (the CS said to give it a few weeks so the negotiation is on the definition of the word few) . At this point we have agreed that I am not going to cycle this week.
I can now sneeze and cough without flinching unless it is a really big sneeze. Giggling is now fine but the big guffaw is not without a bit of a self chest hug.
Easter Weekend has just past but maybe more on that later. I find Easter strangely disconcerting at times.
Monday, March 29, 2010
I decided to join the mall gang today at the suggestion of my wife as the day dawned blustery and almost snowy. The doctor’s orders are still in effect, and I am not supposed to walk in foul weather. Today I was happy to comply.
So I showed up, feeling a bit like it was the first day at school. Mistake one was that we showed up late – we got there at 9:45 and were informed by the lady at the coffee shop that most of the walkers, the serious walkers are done already. My wife today took the role of the lap counter in Ben Hur during the chariot race. ( Judah Ben Hur and his nemesis Massala go round and round and some guy flips horsies on a rod to keep track of the laps). Anyway, my wife felt that since she had to walk The Beagle in snow and rain mix, that she should be exempt from Mall Walking.
I entered the stream and walked the Mall. Starting from the coffee place (just across from the camera place) I walked past the Sears, past the Dollar Store, did a sharp 90 at the Metro, walked to the end doors, then back tracked to the coffee place and then carried on past the Hair Place, past the new dental office, then to the doors, back to the main pathway, then all the way to the Mark’s Work Warehouse, then turning back at the Pizza Pizza and heading back to the coffee place and past my wife where she clicked a horse. (or at least kept track)
I learned a few things: Saying hello to a walker the first time is okay, doing it a second time makes you look like a dweeb. Cutting corners makes you look like a malingerer. Do not get uptight if a small child races past you. Minimal window shopping and browsing is okay.
The Mall Walkers are the worst nightmare of Sports Marketers and the Regulatory Authorities. The Sports Marketer depends on people wanting the latest stretchable, breathing, environmentally gracious, material in the latest fashion colour. The typical Mall Walker does not care, which of course is horrible for the economy.
Even worse, the Mall Walker is not enthused by government sanctioned and approved wellness programmes. A bored and disinterested government functionary armed with flip charts, brochures, Power Point Presentations, and a script created by professional motivational thinkers is not going to do well here. Nothing disturbs the regulators more than a person that wants to help themselves.
But have no fear – I am not going to fall into this trap. I am already looking forward to getting the okay to drive so that I can go to Mountain Co-Op in Ottawa and stock up on the pesticide free cotton in the newest colours. And I am biting at the bit to meet my trainers and motivators at the Carlton Place and District Memorial Hospital. Maybe one day I will have the courage and resolve to be a Mall Walker. Until that day I will just continue to be the consumer that I love to be. (but I still hope that they don’t give me the boot from the Mall)
Friday, March 26, 2010
But, it is Friday evening. If this were a winter’s eve it would be stellar: Clear skies and a low of only minus ten Celsius and barely a wisp of wind. But is officially already spring and we have been spoiled by sunny blue skies and highs in the low teens during the day. This morning the Madawaska had hundreds of headless geese in it, swimming in unison. Well the geese appeared headless, I think in fact they had tucked their heads under their wings; they were as unimpressed with the Arctic air mass as the rest of us.
So what are we doing this chilly evening? Well the fireplace is on in it full faux wood propane glory. It does look a little phony, but the warmth is real. We snacked on Moroccan Clementine, some light cheese, and some dark chocolate. (in full disclosure it was one small square of Lindt Dark Chocolate and one small Babybel Light). Despite hovering cats and Academy Award Acting Mutts (Best Beagle in the “I Have Never Been Fed” Role) it was quite lovely and romantic. Elina Garanca is singing in the background with a backup chorus during the very quiet parts of the geese glee club from the river.
The above is why I got my surgery. I don’t want to live to a hundred and who knows the future? But just being able to have a gentle Friday Night makes life worth while. I think of those without water, food, shelter, warmth, clothing, security, medicine, and worst of all no hope and no love. I sit here warm and content with a full belly and no thought to dangers that could lurk outside. I am surrounded by love and hope and gratitude.
When I lay in bed at night it seems like my heart is pumping with a new vigour. This Sunday the University of Ottawa Heart Institute has its annual telethon on CTV Ottawa (aka CJOH) . I have already donated and will be watching and donating again. It is hard not to be grateful for a Friday Night