Saturday, December 1, 2012

Welcome Christmas, Bring Your Light!

It's Saturday morning here at my house at exactly 7:44.  It was a rather cold, dry night, with our furnace making the house a little warm due to our experimenting leaving it up one extra degree, and my nose kind of fried to a crisp and my lips cracked up, so here I am wide awake while my sweet wife sleeps sitting propped up in bed beside me.  She has to do that to help her with her breathing issues.  That's a polite way of saying she snores.

It's been a little while since I've posted an update on how things have been going around here, so I thought I'd take this opportunity to do so since I can't immediately go back to sleep.  I don't know how many people still check into this place to view my ramblings, but I thought I'd talk for awhile anyway.

My little girl Alexandra is doing very well in school this year.  Her focus is on construction for the most part, and that's her home room class.  It's one that's filled with all boys except for herself and two other girls.  We had a parent-teacher meeting not long ago, and he told us that Alexandra is doing very well up to this point, one of the better students in the class.  That's no surprise to us.  As long as she shows interest, we know she will do very well.  The only class she's struggling with a bit is political sciences, a class she chose herself.  I do believe, though, that she'll pick up and come back to eventually achieve success.  I have no worries.  We don't really place pressure on her to do well, apart from picking on her to do her homework and study sometimes.  We just always emphasize to her how important it is to do well in school to advance her chances of a brighter future.  There's only one thing that truly stresses me out about her academic ambitions, that being her supposed desire to go to university or college in England.  I don't believe at all that it's because of any schooling or anything educational that's offered there.  We do our best to try to ground her vision and try to make her review her best options to further herself realistically, without her compromising her future goals or dreams.  The fact is, though, when she graduates in a year and a half, the world belongs to her and she can do what she wants.  We can only influence her as best we can as to what is not a good idea.

All this makes me reflect on when I was a kid her age and how I was with my own mom.  Things were a bit similar.  I grew up in a poor household... we pretty much live in a poor household.  I had this feeling of invincibility, like most kids... like Alexandra does now.  I saw myself with a career that would come to me no matter what I did at the time, without a plan or any kind of action.  Alexandra seems to think that this England thing will magically materialize before her eyes, with no contingency plan.  I defied my mother and her warnings about the future to come... Alexandra does the same with us, though she's equipping herself far better for her future than either Janice or me ever did.  I felt like I had all the answers... Alexandra thinks she's got everything down too.  All this considered, I sympathize with the stage she's at in her life, and I know how her mind works.  We have to balance very carefully stressing the importance of her future while at the same time allowing her to be a kid while she still can be.  The beauty and the curse of being a parent is that we get to watch our kids travel the roads that we've already been on, and try to warn them of the potholes, rough patches and dead ends ahead of them.  But kids are cocky.  They will drive those roads like they're driving Hummers when they're only modest Hyundai Accents; adequately endowed, but unprepared for the worst.  Parenting is unique indeed.  I find myself recalling what it was like when I was a teenager myself, trying to set myself back into that frame of mind, so I can readily prepare myself as to effectively influence my own little girl.  It's a bit different in my case compared to many other kids, in that I was fatherless throughout my teen years, though my mother did an incredible job filling in that role as well.  A lot of kids today are growing up with just one parent.  I definitely feel for them.  Indeed, it's quite heartbreaking thinking about it.  Many single parent experiences are very positive though.  I know my mother was the very best person for the task that she had in raising me.  It wasn't easy!

One of my little girl's dreams is that of becoming a singer.  She's participating in a thing called Maritime Idol, in which a bunch of kids from around the Maritimes are competing for that title.  The format is a bit strange, though, with no real judges except for the very small live audience and the internet crowd.  Some might say that having no judges spares the kids the potentially harsh criticisms that lie before them after each performance.  My answer to that is, bullshit!  The kids NEED the harsh criticisms if it's due to them.  How are they to improve if they don't have the tools to do so, one of the main ones being the due criticism?  Sometimes we do well and get accolades.  Sometimes we trip up and get pasted about it and have to find the means to pick ourselves back up.  Life is about triumphs and failures.  Welcome to life on planet earth.  So... we've attended two of these Maritime Idol things now, with Alexandra doing very well at the first one, and okay at the second one.  There were other kids participating that absolutely did not belong on a stage at all, at least at this point.  The potential for embarrassment is extreme for allowing some of these kids to continue week after week when they clearly don't have 'the stuff'.  It can be a complete pleasure being onstage and performing.  But when you're a kid, if you don't perform well, it can be hell once you step off the stage and face your peers.  That's where the responsibility of judges comes in.  Part of their job is to advise contestants how they can better themselves.  These kids have none of that.  This is where I'm conflicted.  I am proud of Alexandra just for getting up on a stage and singing in front of a bunch of strangers and for the internet world to see, much less her Mom and Dad.  Being a true-bred Cook, I also believe in honesty.  If she comes off the stage and asks me how she did, I will tell her, truly and bluntly, with consideration for her soft heart, unlike an actual judge.  Her first outing, she did surprisingly well, with me believing... albeit with bias... that she had the performance of the night among her other ten opponents.  I told her that too, but also told her how she could improve the next week.  She took it all in stride, but basically ignored most of my advice.  So in the second week, she didn't do quite as well, although she over-challenged herself with her song selections, which I also warned her about.  Other kids this week fared far worse though, and I feel badly for them, because I fear the judgment they receive will be from their peers in the hallways in school.  That's the danger of no real judges.  Kids can be cruel, and that's what worries me a bit with Alexandra facing her friends, and would-be friends.  She did, however though, take our advice this time out, after some tears and disappointment, and picked two country songs for next week that are clearly within her abilities.  I look forward to her actually having fun with these songs.  But as parents, we already know she's going to do her best, and we already are proud of her.  It doesn't matter if she advances or wins anything.  She's already won in our eyes by stepping up.

What a year this has been for my wife.  Janice has had struggle after struggle placed in front of her as the months progress toward the end of '12.  From enduring a harsh bout with the flu, to her sister Debbie's passing, to her bout with Bell's Palsy, to her trying times as post office manager at work, to enduring trial after trial with her chronic arthritis and fibromyalgia, to putting up with me, even.  She says she hasn't been quite the same since BP had struck this past summer.  Though it's actually passed, it's left residual effects that left her face still numb and painful on one side.  She had to stop her medication with Enbrel for the duration of BP, since Enbrel is an immune suppressant to aid in the treatment of her psoriatic arthritis.  That led to her stiffening up and store, though she did combat these effects by stubbornly going to the gym regularly.  Imagine doing an intense weight workout with heavy weights for a good solid two hours, then going home and going to bed, waking up the next morning.  That stiff, sore feeling?  Janice feels like that all of the time because of her arthritis, only worse.  So I don't know quite how she maintains a positive outlook.  She does say that her favorite times are when she comes home from work and gets to be with Alexandra and me, especially the days when neither of us work.  When Janice and I first got together, we worked together.  She was actually my boss.  This enabled us to be together all the time, and we thrived on it.  Where a lot of couples need that time apart, time apart for us is actually dreaded.  We talk sometimes of how it would be if she only had a post office in a store where I was receiver too, so we'd be together at work again.  People always say, "you guys wouldn't get along and your relationship would suffer."  To which we say, no, we've been there already and that didn't happen.  If something like mom and pop stores still thrived today, which they don't, I could envision us owning one.  Only like the old days, I'd want her to be the boss!  She's the smart one between us.  She even makes a little more money than I do, at least marginally.  Hell, I wish she made a lot more.  I don't have this macho male pride thing going on, but I am very proud of my wife.  She's a warrior.  A beautiful warrior.

And then there's me.  Ah, what a year it's been.  It certainly saw a year of changes over what 2011 was.  That year was a learning experience, to put it politely.  On the one hand, you have the notion in your head of how people see you.  Then you have the reality of how they see you reveal itself, and the shock sets in.  I still recover from it day to day, really.  It certainly isn't as bad as it was one year ago, but the shock waves sent through my system of the actions of one particular friend and some family during that time have led me to realize that I'm far, far more damaged from it than I even first believed.  I have a doctor's appointment this coming week to try to address my mental and emotional issues, which unfortunately actually lead to physical issues as well.  I have said before that I am alive today because my wife made sure of it.  At no time in my life has that been as true as the past year and a half.  Without her, I'm sure, positive that I would lose the will to live and wither away during times like this.  Through the first part of the year, I took on the misguided notion that I could wean off of my meds and regain some of what I had before I went on them.  While I'm on them, there's a sort of 'fog' in my head, though not actually hindering in any way, but it keeps me balanced, so to speak.  However, if I am on them, I have a much better sense of reasoning and balance.  Although even that's been challenged in the last little while.  I remember my tae kwon do master telling me as I was learning my forms and techniques not to beat myself up over my lack of progress at times, that trying to move forward was all that mattered, because as long as you do that the rest will take care of itself.  There are times that finding the will to move forward can be challenging for a man of my condition, though.  However, I am aware of all of it, and I am taking steps to advance.  As they say, knowing is half the battle.  My wife is definitely an inspiration.  As far as I'm concerned, she's been through far, far worse than me this year, although they say these things are relative.  When you're faced with adversity, you find out what you're truly made of, and you really don't know until then what you really are made of.  It often takes retrospect, looking back upon what you went through.  "I got through that?"

It will be a very different Christmas for us here in a way.  We will be happy, though.  We have a roof over our heads, warmth on the cold winter nights, food and drink and especially, each other.  In our little family of three (five if you count Crocky and Marbles, which really we should), we have never suffered any kind of crisis.  Nothing that threatened to tear us apart or divide us.  Some situations have arose where we perceived there was jealousy at our tightness, but none of it ever phased us.  Nor will it.  We love each other too much around here.  The one thing that will make this Christmas slightly different is our financial situation.  Money has seldom been as tight as it is these days.  With winter being here and the oil furnace burning, we have to tighten our purse strings more than usual as we struggle to pay debts and bills.  Just this past Thursday when Alexandra did her Maritime Idol thing, I couldn't even scrape together $7 to go until the very last minute, and we're over a week removed until the next payday, with absolutely no Christmas shopping done because the funds just don't exist.  But this season, we will eat well, we will be warm, and we will have fun, because we have all the things that matter to us.  We'll be like the Who's in Whoville after the Grinch took all the stuff.  Still happy and still full of spirit and love.

And I will leave this blog on that positive note.  If I don't get to address this blog again until after the season, have a great Christmas and a splendid New Year.  And thank you so very much for visiting my humble blog.

Now fire up those colortinis and watch the pictures as they fly through the air.

Good day.

Monday, September 24, 2012


As soon as September rolls around, I feel a bit of dread.  Summer's over.  What two words are more depressing, really?  "Summer's over."  Sometimes, as it's been in past summers through my own eyes, the end of summer was welcome.  Not this year.

It started off relatively normally enough.  Weatherwise, it was a bit dodgy at first.  It rained a lot, but that didn't stick, of course, as anyone around here would attest to.  Alexandra got through school and moved on with flying colors to grade 11, I was in the midst of weaning myself off of Zoloft, and Janice was recovering from her bout of Bell's Palsy.  On a tragic note, her sister passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer, and that took a while to get through, as anyone would expect.

The key player for myself this summer was my battle with antidepressant withdrawal.  I wanted to find out once and for all if I really needed to be on them or not.  Things seemed to be going well enough, although I did notice some subtle changes in myself along the way.  Some bad, some good, but for most of the time at least it was manageable.  I took to facebook notes on my profile there to make a diary of sorts so I could see for myself if there were changes in my personality along the way.

I felt I had to disconnect with a lot of things and situations in order for me to find out ultimately if I can progress with this idea of freedom from anti-depressants.  I had to actually find out if ... am I really depressed, or is this something else I'm dealing with?  Really, I felt for years that I haven't been suffering from depression at all, but from residual effects of so many head injuries over the years.  The sad part is that some of those were self-inflicted.  When it comes to my temper, I'm my own worst enemy.  I can't hurt someone else.  Even when practicing tae kwon do, if I've hit someone too hard, I'll stop and ask if they're alright.  Sometimes even get clobbered myself for my pause for concern!  But really even worse than this, I've hurt my wife and daughter along the way via hurting myself.  In the late 90's I took action to stop all of it, with some success, all of it attributed to my discovery of Zoloft after a visit and consultation with the doctor, with whom I wasn't being completely honest.  I never did offer that I had divulged in self-harm.

Anyway, summer had its share of things to look forward to upon its commencement.  There were two weeks of vacation, two separate weeks, that Janice and I synced up in July and one in August.  We pledged to go to the beach this summer, as a lot of summers have been beach-less, mostly thanks to the weather.  We've had our share of rainy summers in the past decade.  We wanted to go see more movies.  I was waiting very patiently for the third Batman film 'The Dark Knight Rises' to come out, because my main man Chris Nolan, director of those movies, has never failed me yet.  There was even an online thing were you could submit your part to a chant which was featured in the movie... "de-sheh de-sheh bah sah!  Bah sah!"-- meaning, "rise up".  Janice and me both sent in our pieces, and they used thousands they say, perhaps we were among them.  When all was said and done, we wound up seeing it four times (Alexandra saw it five), once in IMAX, which proved to be THE way to see it.  The first time we saw it on opening weekend, I didn't know quite what to think of it.  I found the film score to be loud and obnoxious at points, the film in general to be loud, and there were a lot of new characters in the three-movie story.  But I enjoyed it.  Janice loved it, our friend Cindy loved it, and Alexandra... well, she saw it four more times, so there you go.  We saw that first showing at Crystal Palace in their new cinemas, in the one that they boast as being 'The Empire Experience'.  What that really is, is their saying they're an IMAX wannabe.  They have spoken word introductions, previews for the actual theatre, just like IMAX always had, that made Janice and me groan a bit, since we'd been to IMAX films several times before.  My perception was that Moncton doesn't have an IMAX theatre... but this place seemed to think it was better.  Sorry, not true.  In fact it was worse than a standard surround sound theatre. 

The second time we saw TDKR was in IMAX in Halifax, during our first vacation week.  To make a long story short, we felt like we'd been cheated the first time we saw the movie at Crystal Palace.  We'd realized that at CP, they'd screwed up the sound mix and cranked it up so bad that a lot of the dialogue was either distracting or unintelligible.  The score was brought back to earthly levels at the IMAX screening, and we appreciated the movie 100% more than the CP one.  Most importantly, though, half of TDKR was actually shot with IMAX cameras, so half the picture isn't seen in a standard theatre.  But this second time around, we also knew more what to expect of some characters, and got to know them better, and naturally picked up a lot of things that we hadn't, or couldn't, the first time around.  TDKR is not 'Batman Begins', or 'The Dark Knight', and I'm appreciative of that.  I didn't want another movie to look or feel like those two, because it would have felt redundant.  The only minor disappointment is that the Joker character was not addressed at all, but I knew that Nolan didn't want to do that out of respect for Heath Ledger.  He didn't want to sensationalize anything that happened or have to sell the movie after that sad situation with his death.  In the end, great performances all around.  Michael Caine should get a best supporting actor nod, but he won't.  Tom Hardy did a pretty amazing job considering you couldn't see half his face.  Of course, Christian Bale wrapped up the story by defining Bruce Wayne/Batman as no one else could, or will afterward.  And to me, this was Joseph Gordon Levitt's shining moment, his coming-of-age.  He's been good in 'Inception' and other things he's been in, but after this, there's no where to go for him but up.  The ending of this movie will have a lot of us wondering what could possibly come next. 

I found that the main villain in the story, Bane, can be a metaphor in my life for this mental illness that I've been battling for so long.  Bruce Wayne underestimated Bane at first.  The guy who trained Bane, Ra's al Ghul, was in Batman Begins, and he also trained Bruce, leading him to become Batman.  Bruce defeated Ra's, only to see this protege of sorts surface and challenge Batman all over again.  The fact that Batman decided to short-sell his adversary cost him dearly, nearly his life.  He wound up in a prison, a deep hole in the earth with sunlight constantly beaming down, but always out of reach and nearly impossible to overcome.  But with determination and heart, Bruce trained and made himself stronger in heart, mind and body, and was able to resurface, reclaiming the light, and made his way back.  Learning from his past, he challenged Bane once again, knowing what he was up against, with much different results.

That vacation week when we took off to Halifax for the day was a good one.  Alexandra was joined by her friend Jessica so she had some relateable company.  Janice and me made our usual pit stop at Quizno's and the other ladies went somewhere else, and we enjoyed the nice weather on the drive back to Moncton.  That week we also went to Alma for a sticky bun trip, and we went to Parlee Beach one day and soaked up the sun all day.  Originally we'd planned on going to the States for a couple of days, maybe even to see a game at Fenway, but we just couldn't muster the finances to do that.  We figured, though, as long as we were together doing something, we'd have fun.  And we did.

The second week of vacation in August was very gratifying.  We'd rented a cottage in Grande Digue near the city, with the beach just off in the short distance, fresh air all around, and lots of room on the property that allowed us the privacy we wanted.  There was a sun room, a sizable deck with a barbecue, a fire pit in the back yard, there was even a small chicken coup the next building over.  We would take little trips to Shediac sometimes to go to the store for stuff, but we opted more for the local bakeries and veggie stands there, where the produce was local.  One day in the middle of the week, the cottage property owner showed up at our door with a batch of fresh eggs from the chickens he had next door.  Talk about tough eggs!  You had to come onto those suckers to crack them.  These were free-run chickens, and that made all the difference.  Best eggs we can remember ever having.  We had barbecues every day, fires every night, went to the beach, took long walks (one time a 10 mile walk... MILES, not kilometres... which we pretty much burned to a crisp), and just had a lot of great family time unwinding, even with the cats, who we were allowed to bring.  Marbles hid a lot of the time, but the ever sociable Crocky would just be himself and hang out.  Alexandra had her friend with her for half the week, and they had a great time.  This is something we must do again.  I guess I just kind of wish we'd rented our own cottage in the summertime long ago.

Work has been fine during the summer.  I feel fortunate that I work with the people that I'm with.  Although there have been times that I've been challenged by my Zoloft withdrawal.  Healthwise, there was one point where I actually threw up at work, part of the withdrawal effects, along with the light headed-ness, general aches and pains, headaches, mood swings, etc.  I expected it all, but when you're going through it and you're in the midst of it, it's not quite as easy to accept.  I would hear some things and take them the wrong way, at least in the end I hope that's all it was.  But I learned to keep to myself and be quieter at work so as not to create any kind of openings for negative humor or criticism that I might not take to, although I actually thrive on my work being critiqued, as long as it's not 'constructive' all the time.  I will say this about myself:  No one, outside of management (and I am not management), works harder than I do.  And I will say that about any job I've ever worked.  If there's something I'm proud of, it's my work ethic.

We've been going to the gym all summer, at the Y.  I'd mainly taken to doing a workout where I go twice a week, and do these two hour workouts that focus on my arms.  I can say that it's worked quite nicely really.  The puzzling thing was my weight gain, because I'd run for half an hour and sweat my pants off with my workout, but still wind up picking up a few pounds, and my pants aren't getting smaller or anything.  Maybe it's my longer hair.  Then I saw some pictures of myself, and I see that my arms are in fact a bit bigger.  Janice will be the first to tell me that.  But this arms workout isn't just about arms, but all the supporting muscle groups, meaning the entire body.  By no means am I some kind of hulk, but I'm healthier than I think I've ever been.  It helps that we've drastically cut back on our pop consumption.  For the longest time, Diet Pepsi would be all we drank around here.  Now we make sure we get a minimum of eight glasses of water, most of the time more, before we indulge in anything bubbly.  The result has been much better working stomachs, better sleep, and just feeling better in general.  We didn't cut out our Diet Pepsi altogether though.  We still love it.  But actually my preferred drink is iced tea sweetened with Splenda.

Now Janice at the gym... you're talking a locomotive.  I'd pretty much defy anyone to keep up with her.  I don't bother trying.  She does cardio where she'll burn well over 1,000 calories per session, and the sweat will just be pouring off of her.  She will go up to five times a week, and she recently started back up with tae kwon do with Alexandra.  I will go back to tae kwon do on one condition, that Master Lessard operate his own club again.  I don't count that out either.  I think it's a matter of when, not if.  I'll have to get back into my old black belt drills again and prepare for my next degree when that happens.

About halfway through summer, I began experiencing things that I shouldn't be.  I was still off Zoloft, had been off it for many weeks, and began to see the person underneath the shield.  It was still me!  But it was a weakened, more sensitized version.  I was on the verge of tears, it seemed, all the time.  Getting up in the mornings was a monumental task that got more challenging as the weeks progressed.  Situations that I'd been dealing with seemed to balloon in my heart and mind:  Friends who decided not to be friends anymore, trouble with trusting pretty much anyone outside of my wife and daughter, general paranoia...  the past couple of years have presented their fair share of challenges, especially in the summer.  Last year was a whopper.  Summer this year did bring with it some substantial relief, but I need to realize one thing.  I needed to realize that I needed to be on medication.  Much like someone with thyroid disease needs their Synthroid, or blood pressure patients need their Atacand, or diabetics need insulin, I need my Zoloft.  I began to reintroduce it back into my system after having had enough of the craziness going on inside my head.  The tip-off being that I was considering going apeshit on myself for not being able to figure something out one day at work.  It was later on that day that I stopped to look back at that moment, and realized, I can not let myself get back to that point again.  I needed to recognize... maybe I'm not a genius, but I'm not stupid.  I'm not the quickest of learners, but I'm determined.  Perhaps I wasn't put on this earth to be some kind of professional or money making machine.  So what?  I can support a family and live a happy life, as long as I don't set unrealistic goals.  I mean, why live a life of disappointment chasing after dangling carrots.

Re-acquainting myself with Zoloft was one more hurdle.  Getting back on it meant taking another hit to the libido, and that sucks.  I just have to get to that leveling-off stage, which can take a little time.  Motivation is something that has to come back, and it is, gradually.  Like Bruce Wayne preparing himself to scale the walls of that deep hole, I am getting stronger, and I know better not to underestimate my foe again.  But perhaps I had to sink to these depths once more to refresh myself.

But, in the end, after all was said and done, I did Rise.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Me vs Subway

Let me tell you, I'm a pretty easygoing guy.  I can take a lot.  And indeed, it takes a lot to make me complain publicly about a store or company.

But Subway's kind of taken me to a different place on how to complain about a business which has wronged me, and refuses to rectify it on my terms.  Allow me to explain.

The following is the complaint that I've attempted time and time again, like a minimum of a dozen times, to send to THIS SITE  with absolutely no success.  I would fill out the form, with all the necessary info,  jump through all the hoops, only to be screwed over in the end because there are problems with the site.  How convenient.  Look... if I'm running a business, I want to hear all of the nice things people are saying about what I'm selling.  But perhaps more importantly, I want to hear what people think is wrong with it so I can make them happy too.  This doesn't seem to be what Subway restaurants gives a shit about though.  That's okay.  I'll just keep shouting till they hear me.

I did post my complaint on their Subway Canada facebook page, only to have my complaints removed, with an answer from them telling me I should call their customer service hotline and place it formally.  I explained to them I'm not comfortable doing that.  If I'm the customer who's complaining, I would think I would be able to choose the medium in which I want to complain, no?  The thing here is, they're playing against themselves.  They're only making me angrier by worsening their customer service by telling me how to complain.  I mean, what the hell???

Anyway, here is the aforementioned complaint:

It is with regret that I complain to you about the service from the location of your Subway chain at 630 Pinewood Road, Riverview, NB.
I arrived at this location shortly after 12:50pm on Monday, July 9, 2012.  After placing my order at the counter to a younger group of staff (no issues with them), I proceeded to the cash to pay for my sandwich, a 6" cold cut on Italian bread.  The total came to, let's say approxiamately $3.94.  That actually may be the accurate amount, at least within ten cents, but I didn't keep my receipt because I shortsightedly left it on the counter after my experience.  The older lady at cash, somewhat abruptly, told me the amount, I handed her a $10 bill, and she passed me back $5.  For some reason, I took the $5 and my purchase and began walking out the door, I guess entrusting she gave me the right change minus six cents.  But when I walked out and approached my car, I realized I was shorted at least a dollar.  Going back into the restaurant, I approached the cashier, and there were three to four customers placing orders.  In between her serving one of these people, I asked if she might have shortchanged me, because I only got a $5 from a $10.  She asked me if I took my change from the dispensary cup, to which I said no, because I hadn't even noticed it.  I'd never seen a store that gave change both via cashier AND an automated dispensary cup.  She says, "well, the person after you must have gotten your change then."  I didn't even know, and she never told me about the change dispensing machine, because I assumed she gave me all of my change.  Nor did she say 'Thank you' when I got my change.  When I asked if I was going to get my extra change, she said "for what, six cents?"  To which I told her, forget it, keep it, and you won't ever see me in this store again.  I'm completely done here.  
If this is how this store does business, I will continue to inform others via viral social media to avoid this store and spend their money at a place who will actually appreciate it.  It is to my own admission that I mistook what my change was due to me, but that mistake was not avoided in any way by this incredibly rude cashier and not rectified at all by her ignorant behavior.  Is this really worth it over a dollar?  It is to me.  I didn't pay $5 to be served and treated like this, and I assure you, I never will again!
I don't want an apology from this cashier, because I know it won't be sincere.  I don't even care if I get my money back.  What I care about is that you'll do something about this abhorrent customer service, something I did not expect coming out of a great town like Riverview.  I should add that I'm not looking to get the cashier in question here fired, rather, educate her how to serve customers properly.
And by the way... I don't care if this cashier was 'having a bad day' or whatever her excuse was.  I had a relative pass away two days ago and I also serve the public.  But I assure you I don't take out my misgivings in my life on those who support the business I work for!
I appreciate you giving me your time to read this.  Sorry for the length of this, but this made me quite angry and spoiled my day.

Mike Cook

That's the gist of it.  As it turns out, their nationwide customer service is just as lousy as their service at the Riverview, NB, Canada location that I've mentioned.  This doesn't even include the lousy service that I got at a Mountain Road location here in Moncton a couple of years ago when staff were laughing at me throughout my order.  In hindsight I should have complained then too.  Why were they laughing?  God only knows what were in their ingredients that day.

Well, I've had it with Subway, in any case.  Sandwich artists my ass.  At least you don't see burger joints calling themselves ground beef expressionists or something just as silly.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Random Thoughts 12

It's a good day to post some random thoughts.

The TomKat has been spayed and neutered.  Bob Barker would be proud.  Seriously though, is anyone else surprised that the Tom Cruise/Katie Holmes marriage lasted THIS long?  Just how long did she endure being creeped out by His Highness of Scientology?  Don't get me wrong, I love Cruise's work.  But something just doesn't quite ring true with this scientology nonesense.  Starting with everything. 

'The Amazing Spider Man' is out tomorrow from the time I type this.  I hear I'm not the only Spider Man die-hard that's shrugging his shoulders over seeing it.  I really wanted a 'Spider Man 4', not this, another origin story with a guy pushing 30 playing a high school teenager.  I will see it though.  Maybe it's a good thing my expectations are low.

On the other hand, the buzz is all good for 'The Dark Knight Rises'.  Of course there will be detractors, like I am for TASM, but there's only one director named Chris Nolan out there, and he hasn't misfired yet.  His weakest movie was 'Insomnia', a movie he had no real creative control over.  All the rest kicked some serious tail.

Heard the new KISS song, 'Hell or Hallelujah'.  Good riff, though it reminds me an awful lot of 'Danger Us' from 'Sonic Boom'.  I don't think KISS should shun outside writers for material so quickly and maybe get with Bob Ezrin for one more album.  My dream team for a writing partner for Paul Stanley would be with Moe Berg from TPOH or Lenny Kravitz, but there are no snowflakes in hell either.  I would LOVE to see Kravitz produce a KISS album.

On the upcoming U.S. election... there are worse Republicans than Romney, that's for sure.  I would prefer him over either of the Bush's or Reagan.  But, seriously, Obama has done far more for that country than anyone else could have following the extremely crooked regime of Dubya.  Honestly, who would want the task of cleaning up the mess that jackass left behind?

Really looking forward to season 3 of 'Game of Thrones'.  My nephew Chris and his wife Jana told me I should take a look at that show a year ago, and I've been stuck on it ever since.  It takes balls to have a show so full of stuff that 'GoT' has.  And it challenges its viewers to pay attention and go back and watch again.  'The Walking Dead' is another one I'm waiting to come back.  The most watched show on cable ever is going to break its own records when it comes back this fall with a rip-roaring season with promises of more zombie-riffic tension and thrills, with real characters and real storytelling.  Some don't know that TWD is adapted from a comic book.  Comics are real literature in this day and age.  Don't believe me though.  Time Magazine lists 'Watchmen' as one of the top 100 novels of all time for good reason. 

It's hot enough to make an egg explode like a popcorn kernel outside, let alone fry one.  Not complaining though, until it's bedtime when the heat is too stifling to sleep.  The fan blowing is good, except that it's blowing hot air, which is not so good.  It's almost like a hair dryer.

I haven't had pop in something like almost a week now.  I didn't set out to not have it, but it just turned out that way.  Not saying I never will again either.  I didn't stop drinking it because of the aspartame, because it's a complete and utter load of nonsense that it's as evil as it's made out to be.  You want evil?  Try regular pop.  It's not even real sugar in that stuff anymore.  It's concentrated sugar in the form of HFCS.  You won't see people getting diabetes from drinking diet pop.  In fact, my blood sugar was borderline, around 7, when I last checked it when I was drinking regular Pepsi many years ago.  I switched to diet and it's been in the 3-4 range ever since.  I don't need lectures on aspartame consumption either... not until you've punched it in at and done credible research on it.  Trans fats, high sodium and salt, and nitrites have all gotten a lot of dubious press in recent times, legitimately, in the news.  All with real experts telling people to cut them down or out.  I've yet to see Lloyd Robertson or Lisa LaFlamme tell me anything similar about aspartame.  And no, I haven't experienced headaches or any kind of withdrawal from drinking Diet Pepsi.  None of it.  In fact, my weight's gone up since I started drinking water!

Nickelback is going to be playing the Magnetic Hill concert site soon.  I'm not a hater.  I'm not a liker either, though.  I guess people assume you hate them if you don't like them.  But I have a feeling that they're going to be a Bomb Jovi type thing, where they'll probably have one of the smallest crowds at the concert site yet.  BJ drew 25,000, which is a lot, but consider that tickets were 2 for 1 in the final week leading up to the show and they just let people in for free on show day, mostly women.  A real act will draw people from all ages and both genders, at least for a concert of the magnitude of the 90,000 capacity Magnetic Hill site.  We got 40,000 for a weekend festival thing that started it off with Lynyrd Skynyrd (sp?), Pat Benatar, Peter Frampton, Foreigner, etc.; 40-50,000 for a couple of big name country acts like Alan Jackson and Faith Hill, 50,000-ish for The Eagles, 55,000 for AC/DC, 80,000 for the Rolling Stones and 75-80,000 for U2 last year.  I think Nickelback should have been at the new stadium on the University grounds, which is open for concert business now.  Maybe even the coliseum would have been more appropriate.  But, I hope it does well.  They are rock and roll after all.  I'm interested in seeing what kind of numbers Springsteen will pull in this year.  After that, who could come?  I'm guessing Eric Clapton, Bob Seger, Coldplay, or some kind of package deal.  There aren't a whole lot of monster bands left to come to these parts for a first time show.

My Boston Red Sox look like they might've finally found their mojo, after a rocky start to a season that saw an injury riddled team struggle to reach .500 with a brand new coach and general manager.  My feeling from what I've been hearing, though, is that things are less than harmonious in the clubhouse.  When you've got someone like David Ortiz, who gets along with everybody, talking about leaving when his contract's up at the end of the season, and cornerstones like Kevin Youkilis getting shipped off along with Jonathan Papelbon and guys like Dustin Pedroia calling out team management for less than orderly conduct, you have to wonder.  One remedy to right the ship, if it needs it.... get Terry Francona back.  I bet the team would behave a lot better now that they've seen how it is since he's been gone. 

I guess that's about it for the time being.  For a more personal blog, or 'log', see my facebook page, where I post one every day about mine and the families typical goings-on. 

A mighty 'thank you' to Tim Churchill for being the lone commenter on my last blog here on Ragnar.  Always good to hear from you sir, especially since I have a faulty e-mail address of yours!  Ditched Rogers, did you? 

Thanks for dropping by.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Food for thought


You know, just saying that word kind of makes my skin crawl a little bit.  I'm aware I'm a notoriously antisocial kind of person.  I'm not a fan of big gatherings of any sort, especially at places I'm not familiar with, and I'm always suspicious.

Suspicious of what?  Good question.  For a semi-paranoid person like me, there's lots to be suspicious of.  But let me talk a little about restaurants to start with.

First of all, there are a gazillion restaurants in existence everywhere.  I'm aware it's a driving force in the economy because it provides jobs, blah blah freakin' blah.  That doesn't mean it's necessarily for everybody, yours truly included.  But I have my own reasons for my dislike of them.

Let me start off, though, by saying I love fast food joints.  I don't go to them often these days.  But, by and large, you can see what's going on in the kitchens of most of them.  That provides a certain level of security and comfort, not that I think everything's on the up and up because of this.  But I like having a look at what I'm about to put into my mouth being prepared.  At fast food joints, it's... well, fast, for the most part.  Most of the time it's fresh, because of the demonization in past years of heat lamps, so establishments are feeling the pressure to not have to use them quite as much, especially if they're pointing fingers.  I'm aware of the nutritional value of fast food too.  I know Big Macs and Baconators and Double Downs will kill you, if you eat them every friggin' day anyway.  We choose to have something like that maybe once a month, if even that.  But the fact of the matter is, something like that should be a treat, not a staple.

And don't even get me started on drive-thrus.  The damn things shouldn't even exist.  In a day and age where global warming and obesity are such huge deals, the same people making cases against them are at a Micky D's ordering their supersized meals in a lineup of a dozen or more idling cars in a drive-thru.  I think that we in Canada are taxed to death as a country, kind of literally.  But there is room for just one more tax, of which monies should go straight to a fund strictly monitored by the country's auditor general:  a drive-thru tax.  Twenty five cents or more ought to be charged on every order made at a drive-thru window, no matter how small the order, with the proceeds going toward fitness programs for kids, free YMCA memberships and/or lowered fees, and subsidizations for health care programs, seeing as this stuff is a large part of the creation of health problems to begin with.  Why not make the problem itself accountable for its own outcomes?  The people who would be most vehemently averse to a suggestion like this are those who it might actually help the most.

But fast food is, in the end, affordable, quick, and devoid of the obligation of tipping.  Which leads me into the next phase of my critique on restaurants, though this is where it gets personal for me.

I'm pretty edgy when it comes to going to restaurants or even pubs, but at least in a pub the chances are you won't get scalped too bad, and you don't have to know the cutlery arrangements on the tables and all that nonsense.  And why in God's name should I need to get dressed up to eat anyway.  The kind of guy I am when I eat, the food always, always finds its way onto my shirt or pants.  I could be wearing a hazmat suit and it would STILL find its way onto my clothes.  So if it's going to happen, why not just on my jeans and t-shirt.  I don't like the stuffiness of a lot of these places, that you have to be on your best behavior or whatever.  The wait times for the food to get to the table, visits by God knows how many people to get it all together.... one for the greeting, one for the table seating, another for a menu, another for the drinks, another for the food, I mean come on.  At a pub at least most of the time one person does it all, but then again I haven't been to a pub in a dog's age at least.

My last experience at a restaurant was at Montana's here in the city.  My previous visit there was six years ago for my 40th birthday, and it was disastrous service.  It must have been at least a half hour before they even took anyone's order, another hour for anyone to get their food, and the food was sub-par to be generous.  It was one of the biggest spikes in the coffin for me going to restaurants there ever was, and I didn't even pay that day!  But I digress... I thought in six years, something must have changed.

I went with my family there a couple of months ago, as my wife was awarded a gift card from her work for her outstanding performance.  The atmosphere was pleasant enough.  We got to the greeter, then the person to seat us, then the menus, etc.  Ugh, just going through it annoys me.  But we hear from some people how awesome it is at this place.  Long story short... the service was just okay, the food ranged from okay to downright awful, and the prices were distressingly high even with a gift card.  To me, little to nothing changed.  Consider this coffin sealed for good.

Mind you, in contrast, we've been to Jungle Jim's just down the road from Montana's right around that same time frame, and going there always reassures my faith in the restaurant industry.  I've never had a bad experience there.  The waitresses are always down to earth, the food reasonably priced, and by no means do you need to dress a certain way.  However... there are still the nagging issues of tipping, waiting, and figuring out how the hell you're going to pay.  Do we wait for the waitress and pay her with the bill?  Do we bring the bill to the cash?  Do we leave a tip at the table?  If we do, what do we do when the debit machine asks us for that 15% at the counter?  Awk.  Ward.  Ness.

These are all issues that don't bother most people who actually frequent restaurants, but Mr. Paranoid Android here like myself... it all doesn't sit well with me.  Whatever.  It's who I am and I'm fine with it.  If someone else isn't fine with it, that's okay too.  I would appreciate the invitation to that next restaurant gathering, even if I don't go.  But I'll go wherever the post-restaurant thing is.

And thus, I prefer to cook myself at home for my wife and daughter, and guests if we have them.  I'm not terribly comfortable eating at restaurants, because I just don't like people seeing me eat in general.  I remember my dad used to be like that.  He'd wait until everyone ate supper, the table was cleared, and then he'd sit down and have his own.  I must have inherited some of that.  Even when we used to go to the cottage when there were big feeds, I'd elect to go after the eating was done.  Unless there was a chicken wing thing or pizza or whatever that you'd just grab and eat as you walked around or whatever.  I hate to be rude with my friends when they ask us to supper at their places, and sometimes I'll just go because Janice and Lexy aren't like me in that way.  Best if we're invited somewhere where food isn't the reason to go.  I don't mind going somewhere and then somebody says "hey, I'm gonna cook pizza!" or whatever.  Do I sound like a wet blanket?

This is the way I've always been.  I know there are people who know me who read my blogs from time to time, and I thought this is one of the best ways to explain one of my tics.  I went to see a friend of mine last week at his and his wife's house, and it was a sit down, talk and joke and reminisce visit, and that's how I like those.  My ultimate comfort zone, of course, is something like a jam session or whatever, where I'm in my element.  Nothing like beating the crap out of something like my drums and it being perfectly legal, unless of course I'm too loud, which has happened before and we were served notice for it by police.

Maybe if this new band thing of ours takes off, you can come to a pub and have a drink and hear us one day, and a lot of what I just said above will be rendered null and void.

And that wouldn't be so bad.

Monday, May 21, 2012

There Is No Room Inside A Box

What a lovely night this is, on this very early Monday morning of May 21st, 2012.  It's Victoria Day weekend, and I did work Sunday, though I had Saturday off so Janice and me could attend a black belt testing for our longtime comrade Tina.  She graded to her 4th degree in taekwondo, and we're more than proud of that woman.  If you can picture her, she's shorter than Janice, no more than 100lbs soaking wet, long flowing brown hair and a charming face that could sell snow to an Eskimo.  And... in spite of all that, she could kick your ass from here to Mars and back no matter what size you are.  She has this deceivingly booming voice when she yells as she fights that alone would scare the snot out of anybody.  I was honored to record her test and look forward to creating video for her, including a music montage.  But right now, I've got a way overdue project to get onto that I owe to a couple of very special friends.

I was sitting here tonight after I got off work, and upon reading some Question Period rants, I wondered... just what affiliation in my country do I support anyway?  And would I call myself 'conservative', or 'liberal', or 'moderate', and why?  I hate to have to put myself in a box, politically speaking; I find it figuratively claustrophobic.  Some time ago, I watched an interview with Jesse Ventura, where he said that he wishes there were no such thing as political parties.  Wow, things would be a mess, wouldn't they, if that were the case?  And the more I thought about it, the more I agreed with him.  As it stands right now, our elected officials who belong to the Conservative, Liberal or NDP parties essentially are programmed robots.  They all have to tow the party lines lest they get wacked out of their organizations by their party whips.  Ultimately, who knows if your elected official really believes in what he/she is supporting.  They have a job to do and families to feed, supposedly, and if they disagree with their leaders or party policies, chances are they'll get shuttled to the backbenches in Parliament and pushed out of the scene altogether in the next election.  So say, if we in Moncton have a concensus that we support something like, for example, gay marriage (easy tiger, this is just an example), and we vote for an official that runs on a campaign saying that he/she does to forward that notion, then we know what it is we've voted for.  It wouldn't matter if that person was affiliated with any party.  But... if they did, and that party they were affiliated was Conservative, would it make any sense at all to vote for them, knowing they'd wind up in the nosebleeds of the HOC under a muzzle?  That's a waste of a vote, right?

Anyway, so what am I....?  Besides wide awake at now 1:48am on a Monday morning.  My views aren't really so cut and dry.  When it comes to election time, I'm often torn, because I have a problem with all the parties and some of their policies.

I'm not against gay people.  I think there are the odd ones that think I am, for whatever reason.  I'm kind of a religious guy, and so my own faith dictates, at least in my interpretation of it, that gay people are sinners.  So are straight people.  So are 'A' people.  So are transsexuals.  Let whoever is without sin cast the first stone.  I know all the things that the bible says, especially in the old testament, and St. Paul in the new.  I tend to go with the new testament, because Jesus rewrote a lot of the rules from the old testament, and He especially focused on forgiveness.  And revenge, how wrong it is.  I've never seen anywhere in the bible where 'God hates fags'.  I have read in a lot of places in it where God loves all his children equally.  But it says repeatedly that homosexuality is wrong and it's a sin.  Hm... but guess what?  It says repeatedly that sex outside marriage is a sin too.  I don't remember reading which degrees of sin each one is, or which is worse than the other, but I do know that I've fornicated quite a bit in my own lifetime.  Thus, I can't elevate myself above any homosexuals in innocence as far as right and wrong goes.  Geez, according to many verses in the bible, I think I'd be an outright pervert.  But, I do believe my actions speak for themselves.  I do love everyone and try to do right by all, no matter where they come from.  Do I believe in gay marriage?  No, I don't.  Does that mean gay marriage shouldn't happen?  What, because I personally don't believe in it?  Who am I to say?  I wouldn't go to a gay wedding.  I actually lost a person close to me because of that stance.  But, I'm not going to fight for them not to do as they choose.  I'm torn on gay marriage.  I've seen same sex couples who love each other genuinely, without being stereotypical horndogs and looking for wieners in all the wrong places everywhere they go.  I know more straight people who behave like that.  But I have to reason that if two people can't actually make a kid, then what's the point of marriage?  Even if they don't want kids.  Sometimes married people don't.  But the thing to me is, it's like a square peg and a round hole when it comes to marriage.  I tend to side with a civil union argument over marriage.  But again, I don't make the rules, and I'm not the One that has to be answered to in the end.  But there are still other nagging questions...

I am pro-life.  I am anti-abortion.  I do not believe in 'pro-choice', because to me, the opposite of pro-life is pro-death.  'Pro-choice' is a nice, neat little package wrapped around the abortion notion which ultimately means the termination of a human life.  "WHAT?  Human life?!"  I can just read some minds right now that might be reading that.  "It's a fetus!"  Whoa.  "It"?  Frig, dude.  We were all there.  You, me, her, him, them, all of us.  We were all at that stage in life in the very early goings.  If we hadn't gotten to that stage, if I hadn't, or you, we wouldn't be here on my blogsite right now.  So let's invent a time machine (that'll never happen, just work with me here).  The person closest to you, say your husband or wife... you go back in time to when his/her mother is six weeks pregnant with him/her.  By some random shift in reality, she's considering an abortion, because 'she's not ready'.  No no no!  You say to yourself.  No!  You can not terminate this person because that's going to change my life and so many others for the better!  And you WILL be a good mom, and if you won't, someone will be!  Hey, you know that because in real time, you're married to this person.  Back to the present you come, and you're relieved to find out that mom didn't have that abortion after all, and your wife is here.  What a vastly different world it would be without that one person in your life.  Now, the argument can be made that, what if that child becomes a horrible person and does horrible things.  The argument against it is, then don't raise that child that way.  Killing the child/fetus/embryo isn't the friggin' answer.  The embryo didn't ask to be born, and certainly not be killed either.  Did you ask to be born?  It's a good thing you were born though.  There are countless people around you right now that would absolutely agree with that.  Then there are others who would disagree, maybe.  But then you're talking dynamics.  Like how they were raised and with what values, and if it wasn't a good upbringing, then what about the parents' upbringing.... again, who casts the first stone.  But... then, there's the issue of rape.  I can tell you right now if my wife was still able to have kids and she was raped and impregnated by some fiend, she would likely want that child aborted.  I probably would too.  I would do some serious praying and asking for strength and guidance, but ultimately, my belief is that God is the creator of all life, regardless of the act from which it stems.  If you're a follower of God, especially if you are Christian, how do you come to the decision to do something such as this?  But in earthly human terms, how can you not?  That's a choice ultimately that's given to the people involved.  How about if the mother's life is in danger due to the pregnancy?  God created that life inside of her, according to beliefs.  Do you terminate that life that He created to save the mother?  In my mind, of course.  And pray for forgiveness.  Desperately pray for it.  Those two instances are exceptions to the rule when it comes to the abortion subject for me.  And again, these are based on my beliefs.  I don't have the right to force my beliefs on anyone, but, I would like to think I can be a positive influence somehow.  I do know that if I carried a sign on a street that says "Abortion is Murder!", that I'm not going to win over anyone who favors it.  Pregnancy is made out to be a ball and chain by society so much, that it's to the point that it's forced young women, and older even, to casually make the decision to kill the child they're carrying.  Casually!  That's truly the worst of all of this.  The value for human life has so been cheapened by 'pro choice' that it's made something like an abortion not even be as serious as a tonsillectomy.  Can I tell someone who wants to have an abortion that they can't get it?  No, I can't.  If there were no abortion clinics, they'd find another way.  I hate the idea of it either way, or in any way.  But, the bottom line is this.... if a woman is going to get an abortion, I want nothing, NOTHING to do with it.  Not one cent or fraction of a cent of my tax dollars.  You get it, it's on your own dime, unless in the extreme circumstances I discussed above.

Let's hit the brakes and put it in reverse just for a minute.  About gay marriage... here is where I'm arguing with myself.  And I put this question to any Christian out there:  If you had to choose between a baby being raised by a married gay couple, to having that child aborted, which do you choose?  If you have a woman who just found out she's pregnant with a child, and she says she can't have that child right now because she's 'not ready' or just doesn't want it, and you have this loving same-sex couple longing to raise their own, don't you give this gay couple that chance?

Now back to the original topic.  Does this make me conservative or liberal?  Because I'm very much against abortion, and kinda sorta against gay marriage, but neither issue is black or white.  So at election time, I'm torn.  The liberal parties are full-on supportive of abortion, and conservatives are pretty much full-on against gay marriage, and at election times, they will use those platforms to get votes.  A vote for the conservatives is a vote in support of traditional marriages (i.e. against gay marriages), and a vote for the liberals is a vote for pro-choice (i.e. government funded abortions).  Period.  There's no finagling with these things, no discussions.  This makes me consider spoiling my ballot every election, because I can't find anyone who has at least a similar point of view to mine to vote for.

Of course, then there's the Harper regime recklessly spending money like a drunk with a fat wallet in a liquor store, with pure idiots with too much power like Bev Oda, Peter MacKay, Lisa Raitt and Vic Toews, just to name a few.  At least I do know the Liberals will balance the books.  Granted, the Trudeau era saw the deficit balloon to $25 billion, but then Mulroney came in and nearly doubled that.  Eventually Chretien came in and cleaned it up, only to have Paul 'Mr. Dithers' Martin completely blow his re-election bid after pushing Chretien out of the big chair, only to have the Conservatives gain a few minority governments, then finally a majority where the spending went batshit crazy and left us with the mess we're in now.  The NDP is the dark horse in the ranch right now.  They kind of scare me.  But the unknown is always a bit frightening.

So, I don't know what I am.  I'm pro-environment, but not necessarily anti-oil, until we have something reliable to replace it.  I'm pro-gun control, but don't think there should be a registry of hunting rifles, because criminals don't care if their weapons are registered or not.  And I'm pro-life, and that includes against the death penalty, because that goes back to what I said about Jesus teaching us forgiveness and being against revenge.  I did say God creates all life.  He didn't give us the job to take it away.  That's His and His alone.

I'm aware that this blog may raise eyebrows; it may make people like me more, or less, or just be accepting.  All good in any case.  This is me, honest and open.

And I welcome you to be the same way.

Friday, May 4, 2012

....what we are.

I thought I'd drop by Ragnar here for just a brief time and air my feelings for a bit.

The other day I'd gotten an e-mail from my friend Glen, updating me on the story of a little girl named Rachel who's battling for her life against cancer.  Those who are regulars here on Ragnar know what I'm talking about.  I'd become lax in posting about her, and I regret it.

Glen received an e-mail this time from Rachel herself, which sums up what's been happening since I last posted about her.  I'll let you read it for yourself:

Good morning,

Here is the latest on Rachel, from Rachel.

Her wise words are something we should all remember "Trust in ME".

When all of this first started I thought I knew the "schedule" which was 8 rounds of chemo surgery, radiation and then 6 more months of maintenance chemo. So I kept my mind on that schedule until I found out my tumor grew through the 3 rounds of the Sloan protocol. That made me so upset and from there I was always so depressed. I would cry over everything- hellos, goodbyes everything. The past 3 rounds of chemo were hard on me and not on the tumor. So we tried the 3rd protocol and we found out it didn't work. So we went to Boston and talked to the doctors and they said that surgery isn't something that they want to do. They simply said that my tumor was challenging and smart and found a way to grow with the chemo. There are 5 total protocols to try and so far 3 haven't worked. So I'm very worried and upset because what if none of them work? That's where I have to trust God. The doctors said that this battle will go on for another 9 months to a year which is not what I expected and then I have all the schoolwork to catch up on. The radiation might interrupt the growth plates and my legs might be different lengths. I just feel like this whole experience will affect and change my life forever in a sort of a bad way. My siblings have told my mom in tears that they just want the old Rachel back. Those words just tear me apart. It's been very tough for my family to watch me suffer and to feel as bad as me emotionally. But my mom continues to be my biggest supporter because this has been a long fight and I am not half way through. Thank you so much for all the thoughts and prayers they do really mean a lot to me. But I know one day God will reveal to me why all this has happened but for now he tells me to "Trust in Me" so that's what I'm trying to do…

"Jesus Never Fails"

"Yea, 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."

Psalm 23:4

Now... how remarkable is that?  This speaks volumes to me.  No matter how hard you have it, or how hard I have it, does it even remotely measure up to what Rachel is enduring?  Has it ever?  And yet she stares down her illness, with Jesus standing behind her, providing inspiration for anyone battling with any kind of struggles in life.  She's a hero.  I don't think she quite realizes that.

I know what a lot of people would say... "why would God let anyone go through this?  Why does he allow such suffering?"  There's always more to the story than we often already know, that we will know later.  God's only Son pleaded with his Father on the night before his death to spare him of what was to come, if it was at all possible.  God didn't spare Him.  So, which one of us places themselves above Jesus that we should be spared when He wasn't?  Reading Jesus' story in the gospels, while all the turmoil was happening, it was also hard to see why God was allowing it all.  But in the years to pass, it made a lot more sense, didn't it?  Perhaps even for several generations after the death of Christ, His followers questioned why the greatest teacher to ever live was allowed to be stricken down by other men.  But time is also a great teacher, in tandem with Christ.  

But, before it sounds like I think I belong in church doing homilies....

Let me update those who are concerned about Janice on her health.  Great strides have been made.  Movement in her face gets better every day, and last night she slept without taping her eye shut for the first time since dealing with Bell's Palsy.  There is still some numbness.  Her ear still hurts quite a bit at times, and her eye bothers her every now and then, but things are greatly improved, and continue to improve.  She talks often about how much it means to her to have the support of Alexandra and myself, and every one of her friends that stay in touch with her to ask about her.  Just yesterday, our old friend Marshall, he a co-worker from my last job, dropped by her work and asked to give her a hug.  Something as simple as that made her day to the point that telling me about it made her tear up, and in turn made me really happy.  What a great circle of friends we have.

Janice is dealing with other things that exacerbate her physical condition, though.  The biggest being her sister, who was diagnosed with terminal illness not long ago.  Her sister was flown from Alberta to spend a week in Moncton with family, perhaps for the last time.  You can imagine the emotional impact that would have on her.  She makes an effort to go see her every day and make the most of every moment.  

So, I am at peace with everything.  I've realized over the past two years just how badly, mentally and emotionally, damaged I was from my last job experience.  I'm not kidding when I say that if I'd endured it much longer, it may have reaped dire consequences.  It was bad enough that I had to get myself together over the years following walking out of that place, but concurrent events just compounded the wreckage in my heart and soul that truly tested me.  Finally, I've come to realize that having a job where you're appreciated, that you're actually good at, means a whole lot more than you might realize.  Self worth is paramount in mental and emotional recovery.  I'm a sensitive guy, for sure, prone to hurt feelings, though not near as much anymore because of this newfound confidence. But I've actually learned to accept my own sensitivity, and embrace it.  A friend of mine, Michelle Arsenault, was discussing these topics with me recently, and she put it to me... Why are we apologizing for being sensitive all the time?  Indeed.  We are what we are.  No apologies necessary.  And those who seek to change us, need instead to adapt to us just how we are, or move on.

Thanks to the commenters on the last few blogs.  They mean a lot to me, and to us.  

If you could, say a prayer for Rachel, and for Janice's sister, as well as Janice herself.  You will see updates about Rachel with more frequency here on my site.

Thank you for tuning in once again.  I'm blessed to have you reading.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Full Circle

A little bit of an update on Janice and other things here.  Rather than post an overly long status update on facebook, I thought this makes more sense, plus there are those who don't have facebook, so...

Her Bell's Palsy is slowly improving, but is by no means done yet.  Baby steps.  A lot of the pain is gone, but, there is still pain.  And the more she talks, the more pain there is.  Half her tongue is still numb, half her face is still numb, although there is gradually feeling coming back.  When she smiles, it's half of a smile.  Her left eye stubbornly will still not close, so she has to go through the bulk of her days with tape to hold down her eyelid to keep her eye from drying out, and gauze over that to apply pressure to keep it shut.  Drinking and eating is still quite a challenge.  She's uncomfortable going out anywhere to eat, but will make the effort today for Alexandra's birthday, and go to Jungle Jim's.  Finger foods, she says, appeal to her, because there's less chance of any kind of mess when she tries to eat.  A straw fixes the drinking challenge.  Plus, I think she's a little self conscious of the eye patch.  I mean, who wouldn't be?

She's brave about all of it though.  She cracks jokes about herself, many of which I can't laugh at, but she's very light hearted about it.  However I won't take anyone else making jokes about her.  No one has yet.  I understand people will be people, but I don't want anyone staring or anything.  Something we're both very touched by is the show of support by so very many people.  There are friends of mine who she doesn't even know showing support for her.  People she hasn't heard from in a long time are stepping forward and offering their hope and prayers.  It's times like this that you have a renewed faith in humanity, oddly enough.  Janice has a lot to deal with as it is.  For those who don't know, she has psoriatic arthritis, one of the most painful and ruthless forms of the disease; fibromyalgia; hiatal hernia; high blood pressure (related to her meds); underactive thyroid disease; ocular migraines; psoriasis; and now Bell's Palsy, like she doesn't endure enough.  Her annual medication runs in the tens of thousands of dollars, but is covered thankfully by Blue Cross.  She hurts pretty much all the time, but will suck it up and get to the gym anyway, because she has use-it-or-lose-it mobility issues.  She fights weight issues because of her meds, but she doesn't give up on it.  She does not accept 'how she is' as an excuse and continues to battle everyday.  Janice can be likened to those stand-up blowup toys that kids punch and they bounce right back up.  You can knock her down for a moment, but you can even more so count on her coming right back.  Anytime I hear of someone being lazy or sick or anything, I can't help but tell them about Janice.  And then ask... so why are you complaining again?  And what's your excuse for not taking care of yourself?  WHO are you blaming?  Janice blames no one or no thing.  Rather, she just fights.

And now, onto the offspring.  As I write this, today is my daughter Alexandra's 16th birthday.  Let me tell you what I think of her.

I remember the day Janice got the pregnancy test results and told me.  I remember the night before, saying aloud in bed, "I don't want to be a father.  I CAN'T be a father."  Then Janice getting those results and telling me with fearful tears in her eyes as she looked at me, maybe fearing I would leave.  I thought to myself, it's time to be a man now.  Now, I want to be a father.  God gave her to us.  He gave her to us for a reason, and He expects us to take care of her and make her one of His own.  As the months passed, some of the hardest months of our lives because we were out of jobs with no hope on the horizon living in the basement apartment of a very understanding landlord, excitement began to build.  Distress did set in from time to time, because I'd gone to a computer college, gotten a diploma, applied to dozens of places and didn't even get an interview out of it.  Then just a couple of months before Alexandra was born, I got a job as a driver at BJ's Subs that I kept for 11 years.  When she was born, everything just started falling into place.  There were good years and bad years, but somehow, having Alexandra in our lives stabilized everything.  It made all the hard times that we endured matter, and worth it.  Life had a greater purpose than it ever did.  I wrote a song about all of it called 'Full Circle', waiting to be fleshed out, many years ago.  I just need a capable guitar guy to help me out.

And here we are today, 16 years later.  She's in grade 10, having perhaps her best year yet in school; working at the same place as her mother, with pride, never calling in sick unless she really was (that happened once); holding up dreams of perhaps becoming a cosmetician one day soon, and learning how to do carpentry next year in school.  She's one of the most thoughtful kids I've ever known.  She'll use her money to make people happy when Christmas or birthdays or whatever come around, thinking of herself last.  It does upset us sometimes that we see her alone fairly often.  It reminds us of our own childhoods, and how much it hurt, but Janice and me do everything with Alexandra.  You take the three of us or you don't get any of us, that's just how it is.  I see good things in her future though, with a focus on where she's going, which is something that makes any parent happy.  When I was 16, I was just living day to day without a plan.  I'm lucky to be where I am right now, having lived a life flying by the seat of my pants.  But Alexandra has a map for herself drawn out with where she's going.  That provides comfort to her mom and pop.  We are tremendously proud of our 'little girl', and today is her day.

As for me?  I'm doing fine.  I have everything.  A loving wife and daughter, two shit-disturbing loveable meatballs for cats, a house, a car, a job I like, a family to spend time with during the summer, die-hard steadfast friends... God has been good to me.  And I offer my thanks often.

And I also have friends who read my humble blogs, like you, who... if you're reading this now... I thank you for caring enough about my rumblings, whether they be good times or bad.  I'd much sooner focus on the good.  Darkness is just a speck in the light, it's been said.

Until next time, dear friends, fire up those colortinis and watch those pictures fly through the air.

Have a good week.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Facing the face

Well, it took us awhile to watch Wrestlemania 28, over three nights, but we did it.  It was pretty good this year, for sure better than last year's snorefest.  I don't understand the music acts they keep getting, though, it's always rap stuff, and the crowd always boos.  But when they get someone like Motorhead or Nickelback they go nuts.  Anyway, I'm kind of disappointed Cena lost to The Rock.  I like John Cena.  He's a great role model for kids, does a ton of work for the Children's Wish Foundation (more than any other celebrity, in fact) among other charities, and despite his detractors and he-man cat callers at wrestling shows, he never gives in to it.  CM Punk, probably my favorite wrestler, won his match-of-the-night candidate over Jericho, another one of my favorites.  Those guys know how to put on a show.  The women's match sucked, of course.  Women in the WWE aren't really allowed to go all out like the women in TNA do, probably mostly due to Linda McMahon's candidacy for a republican seat in office.  It was good to see and hear good 'ol JR, or Jim Ross, get to announce another 'slobberknocker' again too.  That poor guy gets hired and fired so much from that job because of his consistent bouts with Bell's Palsy, which paralyzes the face muscles on one side, except he's one of the unlucky ones and has it on both sides.  He's been made fun of for it a lot, which is pretty repulsive.  But he doesn't let it keep him on the sidelines.  God bless him.

What a month of March it's been weatherwise.  We had searing heat towards the last third of it, breaking records with temperatures we haven't seen since two summers ago.  If summer could be the way that part of March was, we'd have it made.  But it makes us weary of what could be in store for us this year.

Work has been fine and dandy all the way up to now, still no issues at all.  I'm lucky to have the job I've got with the bosses I've got.  Especially in a case like yesterday where I had to leave early.  About an hour and a half into my shift around 9:30am, I got the phone call from Janice telling me that one side of her face felt numb and there was a droop around her mouth.  I told her I'd be there in minutes to get her to the hospital.  Adrenaline kicked in right away and I grabbed my coat, rushed to the back to punch out and told my boss that I have to bring my wife to see about what's wrong, and he had no issues about it.  I think I made it from Riverview to Moncton, normally a 10 minute drive, in about 5 or 6 minutes.

I got into her store where she works and bolted to the back where her post office is.  Her co-worker Darlene is the one who convinced her to call me to come get her and bring her to outpatients, so Darlene and myself both badgered her to sign out and get ready to leave.  After a bit of this and that, we finally left and headed to outpatients, and I dropped her off there and looked for parking.  Of course, the newly renovated portion of the hospital didn't take into account that parking was still inadequate, so I had to navigate from the full lot to the regular parking across the street.  I wound up in a lineup of cars waiting to get into this parking lot, in the middle of the road, for at least five minutes before I decided no one was going to move, and I opted for the hospitals new underground parking garage over on the other side of the building.  After dropping the car off there, I hastily made my way for outpatients where Janice was, which was a room crammed with people all waiting mostly for hours to be seen.  It's scenes like this that Americans are scared shitless of if they get universal health care, and while I wouldn't trade it for anything, there's just got to be a solution to this bullshit with wait times.  They spent millions on this new department that's supposed to make wait time shorter, and it would seem it's worse than ever.  Anyway...

We got to the triage and found out by an older gentleman that we had to take a seat and wait to be seen.  So Janice took a seat, and I was told I couldn't sit with her because it's only for patients, and I'd have to sit at the back of the room.  I was puzzled and irritated at this.  Meanwhile, Janice would sit down in one of the eight seats provided for such patients, only to be shuffled around every time someone new would come in to get bumped up in priority.  (The 'take a number' system?  What's that?  Let's play musical chairs minus the music.)  This made no sense to us, or anyone, whatsoever and just served to irritate everybody.

About a half hour after getting to that point, we got to see the triage nurse, who took Janice's vitals and blood pressure and asked all the usual questions.  Her b/p was kind of high and her pulse was 97, which I found alarming, but apparently he didn't.  Neither was it alarming to him that her face was droopy on one side and she had a headache, and took a lot of blood thinners that obviously would make one think she's at risk of a stroke when something like this happens.  We registered after that and took a seat among the multitudes.

It's a nice waiting room, I'll give it that.  There are three 42 inch high def TV's, two of which were working, but there was something playing on it from the Discovery Channel that was a bit ... inappropriate I guess is the best word for the hospital emergency room.  Plane crashes were being shown over and over again, people getting killed, etc.  Yup... let's keep that level of optimism at a premium, folks.  Welcome to the ER, you're gonna DIIIIEEE!!!

Janice and me are doing our best to make our time there pass, as it looked like we weren't going to be getting seen at anytime soon, so I hoped to God it wasn't anything serious.  We kept the mood light.  After waiting about two hours, I kind of determined that maybe it wasn't going to get much worse, and so I told Janice I'd go out to the Pantry canteen in the Professional Arts Building and get some snacks for us.  I came back with a cinnamon bun, an oatmeal apple cake and a Diet Pepsi for us to share.  She picked the cinnamon bun.  There were a group of elderly ladies across from us that were there before we were, and one of them remarked, "you've got a darling husband!" to Janice.  I'll take that.  "He is!"  Janice replied.  "He spoils me."  I don't, really.  I'd say she spoils me, but not really the other way around.

I took a moment to answer a text that Alexandra had sent to me, telling me she got accepted into a construction course at her high school. which was a bright spot in this otherwise murky day.  I replied to her that we were at the hospital as Mom is having problems with the left side of her face droopy, but that she'd be okay.  I guess that made her worry a bit, but I assured her that she's being taken care of.  She checked in from time to time via text to see about our progress.

As we waited, Janice and me discussed what we thought it could be.  I told her, "you know what the first thing that crossed my mind was?  Slobberknocker-itis."  She immediately knew what I was saying, knowing what old Jim Ross's condition was from WWE.  She got quite a kick out of my definition, as did Alexandra, which lightened things up a bit.  But I said that JR suffers from a rather extreme case of Bell's Palsy that affects nearly his whole face, where it normally only affects one side.  "Oh wonderful," she said.  "Just add that to the list of illnesses I've got."  It wasn't a whole lot of comfort, but at least some, when I told her that if that's what it is, it wouldn't affect her health otherwise.  In a way, I was hoping BP is all it was, but the alternatives were alarming.  In any case, it needed to be addressed immediately.  But Janice was still in no pain and not really suffering at all.

Both of us were sitting there in outpatients dressed in our SDM uniforms, so that had to have looked a wee bit odd.  Every so often we're mistaken for brother and sister, and here we are there holding hands and wearing the same outfits.  But our rings I'm sure set people straight.  Several asked why Janice was there, some recognizing her from her post office outlet she manages, and she explained to them.  Many were coming into the ER after us and getting seen before us, and leaving, which really made me hope it wasn't anything serious or that it would get worse.  We made small talk with some people around us, many of whom sympathized with Janice.  Some were even alarmed that she hadn't been taken in yet.

Five hours later (!), Janice's name was called, and this was a first:  People around us actually applauded that she was finally being summoned.  How bad is it in an ER where the people around you actually cheer for the hospital for actually doing something that made sense?  It was funny and sad at the same time.  Janice waved at her 'fans' triumphantly as we walked through the green doors to be seen by a doctor.  "Good luck!" they offered.

We approached the nurses' station and were directed to a room to be seen by a nurse and then a doctor.  Janice would lie on the bed while the nurse would test her b/p again and her extremities, temperature, etc., and would ask Janice to change into one of those backside barers while she waited for the doc to come around.  This was a good opportunity for us to let go of some serious canned heat.  The farts building up inside us was pretty intense and we were just about on the verge of exploding, so we took turns.  BWUP.  wwwEEERRpp.  PPFFfff. Ahhh, it might've killed any insects in the room that might've been there at the time, but we finally got some relief!

The doc came around pretty quickly actually, there was virtually no waiting once we got through the green doors.  After asking many questions to Janice, he told her what he thought.  "I think you might have a condition called Bell's Palsy."  I should've been a doctor, eh?  "Bell's Palsy is a condition that's usually only temporary, except very few cases where it recurs.  It could last eight weeks, it could last eighteen months... there are steroids that we can give you for that, but I see that you're on methotrexate, and... what..."  He glanced at his papers, and Janice recited off the big 8 that she takes.  "See," he continued, "I'm very, very hesitant to give you steroids to try to treat this, because with the arthritis you have, as soon as they get a taste of the steroids, it could be all that works for you from there on.  And you don't want that."  "No she doesn't," I piped in, so did she though.  What she's taking for her psoriatic arthritis, a rare form of the disease, is working and shouldn't be screwed with, especially with steroids.  So the doc expressly advised against her going that route, which she fully agreed with, as did I.

He ordered up some blood tests and a brain scan to rule everything else out, to be sure he was on the right track.  A nurse came back in with the needles for the bloodwork on the opposite side of the bed I was sitting on, and she proceeded to poke Janice.  With no success.  Janice was making faces with the half of her face that was still working.  No dice, so over to the other side and the other arm she goes, and I've got a front row seat.  I'm pretty good about the needle thing these days, but I hadn't ever witnessed somebody actually poking someone and moving the damn needle around to get the vein.  I sat there was my jaw agape feeling a bit green around the gills all of a sudden, and there Janice was making her half-faces.  "Oh man!"  I said out loud.  "Squeamish with needles are we?"  The nurse said.  "Maybe today."  Anyway, she got the red gold and took off, and Janice got dressed and we headed out through the new section of the hospital for her CT scan.  That got done relatively quick too.  We headed back to the nurse's station, and were directed back to the waiting room area until the results would come back, within 45 minutes we were told.

We walked back through the green doors and the same people that were there awhile ago are still there.  They asked Janice how things went, and she told them.  Many of them were afraid for her, but some knew of Bell's Palsy and offered that it's nothing permanent.  She told them we just had to wait for tests now.  There was more small talk and discussion with some kind folks, and then, about 40 minutes later, her name was called again.  Back through the green doors we go.

As we approached the desk, there the doc was holding up the chart with the results:  Normal.  The brain scan came back a-okay, and the bloodwork was good, as the doc wanted to also rule out diabetes, which was the case.  He advised Janice on how to take care of her left eye, which he warned was going to be affected by BP, as she won't be able to fully close it within the 48 hours of onset.  He demonstrated with some gauze and tape how she will have to force her eye closed every night with the gauze patch, with some lubricant to keep her eye moistened, as well as using that during the day.  All I could think of was, why her?  Why Janice?  Another damned thing she has to deal with, as though she doesn't have enough.  But it could have been far, far worse.  I feared much worse when I left work that morning.

We went back to the underground parking garage, and I told Janice she's going to get a head rush of flashbacks to our Ontario visits, when we would go to the hotels and the SkyDome (or whatever it's called these days) and use the underground garages.  We walked through and sure enough, "wow, I feel like I'm right back in Ontario!  I kind of wish!"  Maybe next summer.  But it did bring back a delightful feeling.  The dimly lit concrete with a faint smell of exhaust in the air, the cement pillars holding the ceiling up, the faint echo of our footsteps... it sounds dank, but it was the opposite.

Off to Tim Horton's we went for hot chocolate and tea.  We came home and Alexandra was here waiting for us, and quite relieved I think at seeing her mother for the first time after hearing all of this went down.  Home made Chinese food was on deck for supper, our plans for our first visit back to the Y after re-joining this week with subsidization scotched because of the events I just described, obviously.  I took to facebook to give people a hint of what had gone on.  Lots of people chiming in, some Janice or I hadn't even met yet, wishing her well and offering prayers for her recovery.  Those kind of things go much farther than you might think.  For her to know that so very many people really and truly care about her is very encouraging.  It certainly made my day brighter, too.

But at one point in the kitchen after supper, she and I were alone, and I looked at her long and held her sweet face in my hands.  "I'm so sorry this had to happen to you, honey.  I wish I could make this go away.  I was so worried..."  And then my eyes welled up like they are right now and I just held her in my arms.  "It's okay, my love.  I'm fine!  I'll get through this, it's no big deal.  It's just a pain in the ass."  "Anything you ever want from me, anything I can ever do, you better tell me."  "I'll be fine!"

She says at bedtime her face felt kind of heavy, and she had a headache, which she took Tylenol 1 for, and there was a learning curve to brushing her teeth (that's really where 'slobberknocker' comes in) and putting on the gauze on her eye for the night.  She joked that it's good she doesn't need the C-PAP machine for sleep apnea anymore, because then she'd look real cute!  We went to bed, and all seemed okay.  She even began snoring like she often does when she first falls asleep.  I just sat there at one point and looked at her.  This is my wife.  This is the woman God gave me to learn about things, and he gave me to her.  She got me through some hard times and will continue to.  I got her through some hard times, and this is another one.  And we are as strong as a married couple can be.  We are blessed.  God is good to us.

The next day, today as I type this, Janice came home from work (it was my day off), and her condition somewhat worsened.  It's supposed to reach its peak within 48 hours of its onset, which is right about now.  Her left eye is irritated, her face is a bit more swollen, and nearly the whole left side is numb.  It feels like a really solid freezing from the dentist, which absolutely sucks if you ask me.  Her tongue is numb and half her mouth doesn't work, so eating and drinking is going to be a challenge for awhile.

And my job as her guard dog is heightened.  Anyone under my watch that chooses to laugh at her or make fun of her risks getting their own case of Mike's Palsy courtesy of my trained kick to the head.  No one we know and love would, but God help anyone who chooses to be a problem.

And that's the kind of day it's been, my good friends.  Thank you to all of you for your well wishes and prayers, once again, and keep praying for her if you could.  We appreciate everyone's support for Janice.  The next little while is going to be trying, but hopefully before summer comes around, this will be behind us.  I do know one thing:  She won't let this slow her down.  She's adamant about going to the gym again, and not letting this keep her from anything.  People ask her why she won't take time off work, and she'll just tell them, "why the hell do I need to take time off for this shit?"  She's tough.  She's like no one else I've ever known.  You might slow her down, but you can't stop her.

If you're on facebook, friend her if you haven't already.  I think she'd like that.

Thanks once again, and God bless all of you reading this.  I'm grateful and humbled as always.