Friday, January 27, 2012

To be... or not to be.

I need to address something before I go any further with Ragnar.

I'm ready to mothball this blogsite.  The last comment I received was from 'anonymous', who very, very clearly missed the entire point of my last posting altogether.  My intent was to focus on suicide victims and see what can be learned from their plight, so as they may not have died in vain.  I thought it was clear.  Crystal clear actually.

But if the things of a serious nature that I write about are going to be taken out of context so frequently, I'm ready to scrap this place.  Especially if comments of an 'anonymous' nature come rolling in.  It's just not worth it to me.  I invite 'anonymous' to e-mail me privately if necessary and open up some dialogue about this comment.  But since I'm at a disadvantage, allow me to offer my own observations.

"Life is tough at times..." yeah, no joke.  People go through spurts where it downright sucks.  And then some of them go to extremes and don't even want to live anymore.  That's why I wrote this.  "actually it is tough a lot of the time but it can be pleasant based on the way we handle situations and people."  Why do I feel like I was being talked down on here?  I'm 46 friggin' years old and I've seen my share.  'Anonymous' better not be a squeaky eared, cheese eating high school student.  "I think it is important that when we speak of important people in our lives that we only speak of the good times and not the bad especially if they are deceased."  This is the part that riled me the most.  When someone commits suicide, it isn't because of the good times.  Therefore we need to discuss what went wrong to try to prevent others from doing the same thing.  Again, for the love of God, that was the point of the blog.  And I didn't mention names to protect those who might not want mentioning, understandably.  But my dad... well, he was My Dad.  I know Dad does know how I feel, because I believe in the afterlife.  And I don't believe he would have objections to my trying to bring redemption to him by attempting to help others based on what he went through.  I love my Mom and Dad.  So my perception here is that I disrespected his memory by discussing this.  And that deeply offends me.  "Stay positive, live positive and talk positive and respect everyone at all times will make life for all of us a WONDERFUL place to live."  Again... I know this is redundant... being 'positive' wasn't as easy as it is said for those I talked about.  Again, (sigh... I hate sounding so repetitive) we should be looking around us at those who have a hard time "staying positive".  Not all of us are cut from the same cloth and have the same gifts as others, in the way of something as complex as chemical balance/imbalances in our brains, and we all have our own life experience.  I know I certainly have an easier time being positive when I have my wife and daughter with me, and I'm one of those 'defective' individuals who struggle with 'being positive' sometimes.  It's just not as easy as turning on a switch in our heads and putting on a happy face.  Indeed, to tell all of us to 'be positive' is to show ignorance.  Walk a mile in another man's shoes if you want to know where he comes from.

Anyway, I don't want to discourage comments either.  But I do encourage authors to be relevant.

I might desert this site and just write my blogs on my facebook page like I was doing for a short while.  That way there can be no 'anonymous'.  If I do that, my facebook page will go to private once again.  

I'm sorry to any readers of this site that have been faithful to it.  We'll see where it goes.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, January 16, 2012


It's that time of year.  That time when I reflect on a certain moment in my life that things changed forever. It was pivotal, a time when change didn't happen immediately that I could recognize the extent of, but as the years passed, it crept up on me and constantly reminded me of what could have been.

I have to admit, I'm a creature who tends to dwell on things a lot sometimes, but only things that are important to me that have been taken away.  Be they innocence, people, relationships... they always involve people.  I get past most of them, but never forget.  You can't forget some things.

One of those things that happened was my dad's passing, back in February, 1978.  Dad didn't have great relations with his kids, and there were seven of us.  Although my memories of Dad were mostly good ones.  I wonder sometimes if he saw my birth as a chance at redemption for how he was with the other kids.  That's the lighter side of how I look back at it.  There is a very, very dark side.

Life with Dad was tumultuous, to say the least.  He drank every day except on Sundays, and of course, that altered his personality considerably.  On the day he died, Mom found him in bed not breathing, and there were the three of us kids still left living in the small house we had at the time.  Ricky and Cindy were with Mom, I think, as she was in hysterics, beside herself with shock.  I was puzzled as to what was going on, it wasn't yet clear.  I went downstairs from my bedroom to Dad's room, to find him lying there.  I went to his bedside and shook him.  "...Dad?"  He wouldn't wake up.  I left the room and didn't want to go back in.  I remember watching the medics wheel Dad's covered body out on a stretcher and that's when the cold reality settled in on my brain.  My father was gone forever.

There was an eerie calm that descended upon the house around those days after Dad died.  He used to sing old war songs at 3 o'clock in the morning a lot, keeping us kids awake, and we'd go to school literally dazed and confused.  None of us had real good grades, maybe mostly because of that.  After a period of adjustment, we accustomed ourselves to life without a father, mainly myself, because I was the youngest, and no one else in the family would go through their teen years fatherless.  That's not to say they didn't have their fair share of trying times.  More than their fair share.

Years went by, and one day Mom confessed something very odd to me.  She told me that she feared that Dad committed suicide.  He was only 57 after all, and all the events leading up to his passing seemed to indicate that he knew something that the rest of us didn't.  Without going too much into detail, Dad's job at the CN Shops was threatened because of his drinking, and the day he came home from work before he died, he was seen sitting on the curb at the corner of Brady and Limerick Streets, practically in the back yard of where we live at this moment.  This is uncharacteristic of Dad, like he was pondering.  Upon hearing Mom's thoughts, it made me think.  And think too much.

In all likelihood, in retrospect, I think Dad maybe did kill himself.  My uncle Jack forbid an autopsy being performed on my father's body, perhaps fearing what they'd find and the effect it would have on his sister and her kids.  See, I just stopped this moment while typing this to reflect again, which shows how much this all means even thirty some odd years later.

What did that mean to me?  What it meant was too much introspection.  Over the years past the late 80's, especially, I stopped to think of when Dad might've started abusing his drinking.  I was born in 1965.  All I could really deduce was that my mom was 40-ish, my dad in his mid 40's, and along I came.  I can imagine the stress that might cause a couple struggling to get by as it is with six kids already.  I thought, I must have been the turning point that pushed Dad over the edge.  In essence, to shorten it up, I was responsible for my father's death.

To most people, that would sound preposterous.  But for anyone who would like to actually place themselves in the same position I was in, maybe not so much.  I'd suffered a multitude of head injuries up to that point that compromised my emotional stability as it is.  This actually caused me to begin hating myself, with more intensity as the years went on, and I didn't even really realize it.  What could make a person feel more guilty than the loss of someone close to them, when they feel they could have changed it?  This led to a lot of self doubt and self abuse in the 90's.  Self inflicted concussions, bruises, wounds, etc.  When I say that Janice is the reason I'm alive today, I mean it.  She came into my life and brought me stability and equilibrium when I'd lost it.  When she gave me Alexandra, it was a positive turning point, a gift from God that told me I had to straighten things out.

I did straighten out; I went to the doctor and discussed my issues.  I was prescribed Zoloft, and told I may have to take it the rest of my life because of my history, but if it meant any improvement in my quality of life I was up for it.  It made me a brand new person.  I felt normal again for the first time in many, many years.  Episodes flared up over the years from time to time since, but I've gotten a handle on them all, thanks to the two main ladies in my life.

But that doesn't mean that the struggle is over.  There will always be a glint of darkness in me that believes that I played a part in Dad's mindset when he died.  My brother Peter assured me recently that Dad's problems surfaced long before I came along, which offered a lot of reassurance.  It was a definite awakening to my soul, one that I think I very much needed.  But it didn't completely vanquish my doubts.  The idea that my dad probably committed suicide is a dark spot on my soul that won't go away.  It's something I must cope with.

The thing is, Dad had issues of his own in his life.  He'd lost his beloved brother and best friend, Peter (whom his first born was named after) to sniper fire in World War II.  He was super close to his mother, and I think that losing her is something he didn't quite recover from, or get treatment for for his massive grief, combined with the loss of his brother.  Many other things happened.  Perhaps Dad was susceptible to depression because of his bloodlines, which might explain me.  My point is, I believe Dad suffered from mental illness of his own, compounded by his alcohol abuse, which is likely brought on by depression as it is; the irony being that alcohol itself is a depressant.  This would make any kind of loss harder and harder to deal with, to the point he couldn't take it anymore.  When his job appeared to be slipping away, his way of life as he knew it, he couldn't sort it out in his mind.

I have a friend I won't name in this blog, who I'll call 'Brad', that I once worked with a few years ago.  When I changed jobs at one point in my life, I worked in a plant that dealt with a lot of accounts that required more than one person in my particular department.  I did have a partner when I was hired, but he didn't last, and Brad came in and replaced him.  Brad was an instantly friendly, personable guy.  In fact, I don't know many who are more generous than he is.  He laughed all the time, was good for a joke, and was good natured in his demeanor.  He still is, in fact, as I'm still friends with him today.

But only a couple of months into the job, Brad's wife committed suicide.  I don't know how he was able to get through it, but he did, and I'm so glad.  I was one of many who supported him, going to his wife's visitation and funeral, and just being understanding in general, knowing there were going to be days where he was 'off'.  My God, who wouldn't be?  But Brad struggled and struggled from the time of this event onward, and still does today.  He wonders what he could have done, what he could have changed, all of the same stuff that I wondered about my dad that could have prevented that horrible time from actually happening.  He copes with it today, but it's always with him.

His wife, however, like my Dad as I had suspected, had her own emotional and mental problems.  She was finding it hard to get a grasp on her own matters of the heart, and just came to that point where she didn't want to cope anymore.  She sought help from medical professionals for these problems, but not everyone knows what they're doing in that field of medicine.  Brad is rightly suspicious of her practitoner for the events that led up to her passing.  The fact is, there was nothing that Brad could have done that he didn't already do.  She needed assistance from the right people, and people to actually listen to her, for her medical professionals to wake up to her.  Brad's sister is just as torn about her passing, she was a very, very close friend and still grieves to this day, like Brad.  When one decides to take it upon themselves to leave this world, it leaves a constant wave of aftershocks well after the initial earthquake is over and haunts the lives of those they leave behind forever.

Now just recently, this past Christmas Day, another young man has left us by his own choice.  I'll call him 'Mark'.  Like Brad's wife, I never personally knew Mark, I only knew he was a very close friend of someone I, myself, was once close to.  I'd come to learn through my relationship with 'Brooke' that Mark was someone with a history himself of depression issues.  He had trouble in some of his relationships because of it, and was finding it difficult to cope with it.  There were people pulling him in different directions telling him what to do about it, which makes a man such as himself having trouble focusing only have a harder time dealing with his problems.  I know Brooke went to bat for Mark on several occasions to fight his battles when it seemed he needed an extra soldier on his side.  Alas, unless you're a professional with genuine concern about the patient's well-being in a case like this, there's only so much you can do.

Mark's passing leaves behind an immense number of people all wondering what they could have done to stop this from happening, like Brad and his wife, and me and my father.  The big red flag is the very word "Depression".  If someone is suffering from it, it can not be taken lightly.  If someone wants to talk, they need someone to listen.  And suicide victims don't have to have said what their plans were before they carried them out.  If I understand correctly, many proclaim their intentions but most don't follow through, although those that do state their intentions MUST be taken seriously.  I'm so sick to my stomach of hearing about people who have left us due to committing suicide.  It is indeed time to awaken to those around us who are crying out for help in their own ways.

And let me make one most important thing clear:  I don't place blame on suicide victims themselves, or on those around them.  Their cause of death to me is obvious:  Due to complications of depressive behavior.  In fact, that terminology ought to replace 'suicide', so as to place the onus on the importance of the psychiatric health of the individual dealing with mental and emotional illness.  "He or she will get over it" is not a good enough diagnosis.

I hope anybody who reads this will find it in their hearts to expand their capacity to love those around them who are finding life hard to deal with.  All you have to do is provide a listening ear, and a caring heart.  Let your soul carry you the rest of the way, perhaps it will help lead you to getting the help someone very desperately needs, more than you will ever know.

God bless you.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Toast To My Friends....

I took a break from posting on Ragnar here for a bit, and on facebook.  You just never know what life's going to throw at you next.  While nothing happened to me personally or my family, other things just happen that force you to see a different perspective, and, perhaps re-evaluate.

It's a new year now.  2011 is long gone, and to it I say, good riddance.  I hated the latter half of it.  It's made me somewhat of a harder person and perhaps a little less sensitive.  That can be good and bad, it depends.  If you're on my facebook page, you will see a recent status that says 'pumukaw'.  I went to Google Translate and found that translation for 'awaken', in Filipino, a tip of the hat to my lovely friends in the Phillipines.  The symbol for my profile picture means the same.  And I have.

I'm going to go right through my friend list on facebook and give my salutations.  I did it last year and found it reflective.

Alexandra Cook -- My daughter and fierce, loyal protector.  I've said that a number of times and will always say it.  I can't be more proud of her than I am.  She's having her best year in school ever so far, and is growing spiritually and personally by leaps and bounds.  She is more mature than anyone else her age, in my opinion, and indeed more mature than many who are older.  Everyone has something to learn from her, me included.  Smart as her mother and soft hearted as her father, she is the epitome of what a friend and daughter should be.  I love my little girl.

Alycia Cook -- My brother Pete's and friend Heather's daughter.  I admire her perseverance to do whatever it takes to be happy in life.  She's smart as a whip and has her heart in the right place.  She knows the importance of things in life and the place in which they take precedence.  A wonderful human being.

Alyson Showell -- I met Aly many years ago in a chat room on AOL, and we struck up a conversation and have been having friendly discussion ever since.  The stories Aly has told me through the years have made me reflect on how important it is to be strong for yourself, so you can be strong for others.  I will be her friend for as long as she wants me.

Amy Wheaton -- Amy is a sweet woman I've been working with for the past year now.  She was one of the first I made friends with there, and is a truly, purely down to earth, thoughtful sweetheart that everyone fortunate enough to know her would surely reiterate.  She makes it a point every time I see her to ask me how I'm doing, genuinely interested.

Ann Skacha -- Over at social networking site MyYearbook I made a ton of friends, one of the first being Ann.  She's a Thai girl who always has an interesting perspective, living on the other side of the earth from me.  I value her friendship in that it gives me an open portal to life through her eyes.  She is truly beautiful.

Brian Bourque -- Truck driver extraordinaire!  Brian is a longtime friend of mine with a heart far too large for any of his trucks to house.  When I was out of work awhile ago, I remember he'd offered to bring me on one of his U.S. truck jaunts, I think to give me a chance to clear the cobwebs, and I'll never forget the gesture.  You won't find many people more generous than Brian.

Brittany Marie -- This is the daughter of my friend May, brother Rick's fiancee.  One of the more sensitive, sweet fragile souls I know, she's come through life's challenges with hard fists and a sharp tongue ready to defend those she loves.  You're lucky if you're on her good side; not so much if you're not!  She's a gem to me.

Caren Moore -- A MyYearbook friend.  What a sweet woman this is.  Never, ever a bad word to come from her, she always has something to say to make you smile and feel warm in heart.  She's the sweetest peach in Georgia there is, and a true treasure to anyone who knows her.  She is to me.  And Caren is as pretty as she is sweet.

Christopher Cook -- Chris is my brother Roy's older son, just married to his wife Jana a year ago.  When I think of Roy's kids, Chris and the younger Shawn, I feel proud knowing the men that they've become.  Chris is a handsome, ambitious, bright man with a big heart in the right place.  I truly enjoyed his and his wife's company this past summer; and this is a guy who can actually make a conversation about plastic bottles riveting.  I'm not joking!

Cindy Elward -- An old friend from my BJ's Subs days, which dates back to 1996.  I don't see my friend Cindy near as much as I'd like to, even though she lives in town, but that's where conflicting shifts and family life will take you sometimes.  But we keep track of each other.  Cindy is a heart-on-her-sleeve type, and I love her for it.  She is rock solid in her role of mother, wife, and friend.  I know she's always there for me.

Danny Auffrey -- Daniel-san!  Chief Chip-guy Extraordinaire!  I got to know Dan through work as the Frito Lay chip rep.  He's a lot more than that, though.  There just aren't many guys around like Danny, and that's a shame.  Over the past year, him and me have discovered we have a whole lot more in common than we would have guessed.  He's a brother from another mother.  And a dynamite good friend.

Darren Elliot -- One of the bright spots of my working at Vail's Dry Cleaning was getting to be friends with Darren.  This guy is one of the most generous fellas you'd ever know, and I worry that sometimes people would take advantage of that.  He made my time at Vail's easier to take, up until the day he wisely walked out of the job.  I later on took his lead and left myself.

Darren Myers -- A belated birthday wish to Darren first off.  I've known this guy since my age was still in the single digits.  We got to reconnect on facebook, something I'm very grateful for.  I don't have a lot of friends that go that far back.  Darren is a successful guy that reflects upon the seeds he's sown through his life, proving that God takes care of His own.  I'm very proud of my old buddy.

Dawn Hoar Robinson -- My former boss from a couple of years back.  The only reason she still isn't is because she was only a temp boss at the place I was hired, otherwise we'd still be at the same place I think.  I got to see Dawn a bit at Caissie Cape this past summer, and it's always a pleasure to see her and her 'little man' outside of work, as well as at work of course.  Her shining brilliant smile is representative of how I feel about her.

Donna Williams-Wood -- Another MyYearbook pal.  She's been a friend now for a couple of years.  I'm so very flattered that she asks me for advice sometimes, valuing my opinion and train of thought to help guide her to make some decisions.  What a trying year it's been for her, though.  Things appear to be on the upswing, though, and I see good times ahead for her and her 'stinkabutt' daughter!

Heather Goddard-Fallon -- Mother of my niece Alycia.  Not a whole lot of people have gone through the trouble in the past while that she has.  It's not an easy battle, but she has fought it and continues to fight.  Her husband is fighting his own battle with cancer and will surely win, because he has a fighter for a wife to inspire him.  Heather's capacity to love is immeasurable, and I value that in her.  And happy birthday to her!

Jamie Cook -- Brother Rick's oldest.  I officially nominate Jamie as the president of the he-man Green Bay Packers Fan Club.  Jamie's quite a guy, a fun loving, hard working, bright man that has the smarts and the drive to make things happen.  He has a very successful family life in addition to his career, and I'm sure through his spirit, the Packers will never lose another game this year!

Jana Cook -- This is nephew Chris's wife.  Jana is a very intriguing woman, not unlike her husband.  The two of them have this knack for making a conversation very involving, regardless of the subject matter.  Jana is a fitness expert whose vast knowledge I'd love to tap into to improve my own health.  Maybe in the coming year I'll throw some inquisitions her way.  Chris definitely has a true, pure winner in Jana.

Janice J Cook -- Not to be confused with another Janice Cook on facebook, this one is my wife.  Janice is the reason I am 46 years old, which is to say, I'm alive because of her.  Without her in my life, I'm sure things would begin to shut down, and I would self destruct involuntarily.  Janice is the smartest woman I know and ever will know, and I aspire to be as smart as she is.  She'll tell you I'm the smart one around this house, but that's one rare instance in which she'd be wrong.  She knows my strengths and makes them stronger every day, and she makes my weaknesses become strengths.  When I can't see through the dark, she's there to shine a light and picks me up to bring me into salvation.  Make no mistake:  To anyone who knows me and loves me for who I am... I am who I am because of her.  She is the rock upon which I stand, the beauty to which I am enslaved, and the inspiration that makes that dangling carrot reachable.  I love my wife with every fiber of my being.

Jason G Richard -- This is the brand spankin' new husband of our good longtime friend Sara.  What a guy Jason is.  Sara has had some.... questionable past boyfriends!  But I'm sure that God had her be with those guys while he was preparing Jason to be with her today.  And this guy is her crown jewel.  I don't think there's a lot of people more thoughtful, loyal and giving than this.  I really look forward to getting to know Jason in the years to come.

Jenny Spence -- I got to know Jenny through Janice at her work.  I actually didn't get to know her as much as Janice even, but what I got off of her was that she was a genuinely good gal with good intentions.  Jenny's sharp as a tack and has a very bright future right ahead of her after she's done school in PEI, I'm sure of it.  I actually do miss seeing her at Janice's work, but as she said to me before she left, "at least we have facebook!"

Jessica ML Jones -- The Jessica I knew was a brilliant, sensitive, wonderful young woman that was an absolute joy to be around and know.  My wife and daughter would agree.

Joan Makela -- Yet another MyYearbook friend.  What a treasure she has been for me.  She knew when I wasn't feeling up to snuff about things and would somehow see when I was down and come pick me up and carry me.  Joan has a husband and family in Maine, and has been through so many storms in her life it would make your toenails curl.  I draw inspiration from her and her stories about her grampa, a sweet Native American with simple values and love for fellow human beings.  I will always and forever be a friend of Joan's.

Karin Hould Cormier -- Karin is a sweet soul I got to know in the past couple of years when I was out jamming with some buddies.  Karin is a sensitive woman with an extremely welcoming personality, with a pair of eyes that can seemingly actually embrace you in her presence.  You get a sense from Karin when you're with her that she wants to be with you, a gift not everyone has.  And I value her.

Katie Cook -- My nephew Ryan's brand new wife as of last October.  Katie is one smart cookie, and is one of those rare instances in where she's so smart, yet she doesn't make any attempts to elevate herself above anyone else because of it.  She has a modesty about her that makes her endearing and engaging to be around.  And if I may say, I think she's a perfect match for Ryan.  I'm very, very happy for them.

Kelly Mockler Verriere -- This is a friend of mine who goes back quite a way to the early '90s.  Kelly and I are connected very strongly through our mutual taste in music, which is subject matter that we can carry on infinitely, and I really value that in a woman, since I don't know of any other like her that I can connect with on that level.  Kelly has the energy of a teenager, and the looks of one too, and a sweet soul to match.

Kim Guimond -- Kim is Darren Elliott's sister, and another former co-worker at Vail's, and yes, another one who walked out on that job.  Kim's a sweetheart, but don't piss her off, because as short as she is she'll cut you down to size if she thinks you need it!  But equally, she'll console you and feel for you if you're in any kind of distress.  She's a sweet, caring mom, sister, and friend.

Kim MacDougall -- Kim and me go back to 1986, but rarely see each other or communicate at all.  I'm guessing because she's not an online junkie like some of us.  Kim's been through her own story in the past number of years that I don't know the specifics of, but I think she's deserved a lot better, as has her daughter.  I'm sure good times are ahead.  Hopefully we can connect more than we have.

Leanne Kelly -- Also potentially known as Miss Zumba of Moncton.  I don't think there are quite as many people as passionate about that exercise class as she is!  We shared a memorable time this past year when I ... ahem... lost a bet and had to participate in a class she led.  I gave it all I had, shimmying with her and everything.  Maybe one day she can get me in one of her classes again  .... note to self: NO MORE BETS involving Zumba.

Amy 'LilBit' Van Curen -- I met Amy through MyYearbook and continued our friendship through facebook.  She's a sweet woman with a wicked sense of humor who can make me laugh on command pretty much anytime.  That's a gift that anyone who has is blessed with.  She's another portal to another point of the world I value down in New Mexico in the U.S.  This gal's got a smile that would arrest the devil himself!

Lisa Ganzer -- Once again another MyYearbook buddy.  And once again another lady with a wicked sense of humor!  I know if I need to get a giggle out, all I have to do is log on to myb and see what she has to say over there (you can be somewhat more risque on myb than facebook).  I haven't known Lisa real long, but I got to know her a lot in the time since I connected with her and feel very blessed for it.  She's one of my besties at myb.

Lisa Lutes Cormier -- Lisa goes back to the mid '80s too, back when she was the 'other half' of her now-husband Alan.  Lisa doesn't appear to be online too much, but when she's in person with you, she's fun to talk with.  I like that Lisa is so supportive of her family, as I've witnessed her have the back of her son and husband on numerous occasions.  She's certainly someone you'd want in your corner.

Louise Cormier Arseneau -- I've known Louise since junior high school.  Funny story, way back when the Dud James Arena was still an ice rink, a man named Henry was a worker there my brother Rick and me would hang around a lot with and help out.  I hadn't known until just a few years ago that Louise is his daughter.  Louise used to be quiet but gregarious when I knew her, and can only be more friendly now as I can tell.  I'm fortunate to still have a connection with her.

Marquita Linder Woodring -- Yet another pal I met on MyYearbook from Ohio.  I got to know Marquita this year at a time in her life when change was forthcoming.  I'm still getting to know her, but all indications are that she's a really sweet gal who needs a break in her life, and I think she's getting it finally.  I don't doubt I'll be back in a year saying how much better I know her.

Matt Cook --  My brother Greg's one and only kid.  Matt is one of those computer genius kind of guys that everyone wishes they knew for a reference point.  Of course, he's much more than that.  He's a fantastic dad of three (including twins!) and husband, and is a very even keeled, mild mannered fellow that I would almost swear wears a smile more than any other expression.  And mark my words, one day Matt and me will be a music force to be reckoned with!  World, be warned.

May Williams -- May is Rick's other half and mother of Brittany.  She's got a herd of animals at her house that she has this uncanny knack of keeping in perfect order in behavior, although she's had the misfortune of having one particular longtime old friend of hers fall fatally ill.  The way May brings up her animals is to have them behave so respectful that you can't help but love them.  And that speaks volumes for May herself.  I value her dearly.

Melissa Naseem Riley -- I've gotten to know Melissa very recently through myb, and then concurrently of course on facebook.  She's a sweet gal who loves a good laugh, and she brings truth to the 'everything's bigger in Texas' credo in that she's got a personality which fits that description.  Another killer smile!

Michele F. Lepage -- This gal goes back to the BJ's Subs days too.  I'm glad we kept communication lines open, though they've been choppy through the years, but we've never had problems.  Michele's been through high highs and low lows in the past few years, but I get the feeling that she's smarter from it all now and that things can only be better to come.  This is yet another awesome mom who'll do whatever it takes to keep her cub happy.

Michelle F Dormer -- Michelle and myself go all the way back to the glory days of the mid '80s, and we reconnected through the glory of facebook a couple of years ago.  It's really great reading her words, because I can actually 'hear' her saying the things she types.  I love her and her whole family, and I consider her mom and dad my own in many respects.  Her dad is one of the great role models in my life.  Michelle is a super mom, just like her own, and it's nice to always be in touch.

Michelle M Arsenault -- If anyone's familiar with my old band YQM's album cover, you've seen Michelle, as she's the girl neck-scissoring me on the floor (what a tough shoot THAT was!).  Michelle's now a native of Vancouver, and a successful author of two books, "Fire" and "Spark".  I'm in the midst of reading "Fire" right now, and though I'm a slow reader, I'm finding it unforgettable.  I love her wit and intellect and I truly value our facebook trade-offs and friendship.

Monina Santos Santos -- This is one of the first friends I'd made on myb, a filipina honey with a heart of pure gold.  Like every woman I keep dear to me, she's of bright intellect and very affectionate with those she holds dear to her.  She's got a wonderful family in the Phillipines with her, and like so many others, offers a wondeful view into another area of the world I would otherwise only know as a mystery.  I value her friendship dearly.

Natalie Parent -- Ah, Natalie... I've known her as long as I've known Kim and Michelle, roughly, and like them we're still in touch, but she's in Ontario.  I know she's had her share of very tough times though in the recent past, but I'm encouraged to see that there may be signs of a break in the clouds.  She deserves it.  I know Natalie, and I know there are good things coming to her.  There has to be.  She's too sweet of a woman for anything other to be true.  I hope I never lose touch with her.

Nicole Renee Brun -- I've known Nicole for awhile now, but not really well... although I think facebook will kind of help change that.  But what I do know of her, I absolutely love.  There isn't even a fiber of a mean bone in this woman's body.  Always charming, always welcoming, always friendly, I put to you that if you can't make a friend in Nicole, there's something wrong with you.  She's that sweet.

Pam Tidd -- She's of the group that I'd gotten to know with Natalie, Michelle, and Kim, in that same time frame.  Pam got to be pretty close back in the early '90s, and we'd broken off for a bit and then reconnected.  We've been sparring partners, in more ways than one!  She's raised two lovely daughters, pretty much on her own, and from what I can tell makes friends everywhere she goes.  She leads a career in helping others, which gives you an idea of her heart.  I'll always love her.

Patcy Williams -- This gal is one of the most important people to come into my life.  When I was in my formative years, not thinking much at all of myself, she came along and made me feel like a king.  That made a difference in me though my tougher times to come.  Patcy is a member of the police force here in Moncton and formerly with the military, so she's more than accomplished, no doubt with more on her platter to come.  There aren't many friends I'm as proud of as her.

Patty Kali -- Another myb gal, she being from Arkansas.  Patty's a fiery gal with a lot of spunk and a hilarious sense of humor. I wish I had a buck for every time she made me smile on myb or facebook.  I love how she's so complimentary and flirty, all with a wink and a lovely smile.  And yes, Janice is okay with it!

Patty Stiles Davidson -- Patty's a co-worker of mine who I can call a friend.  There's never a time where we can't fit in a joke on the job to make each other laugh to lighten things up, not that there's a whole lot of times where that's needed.  Patty's the kind of gal that can keep you on your toes, or your heels, without making you feel threatened at all.  And she can slay with that smile of hers.

Pauwlina Dexter McGrath -- The owner/boss of the place where I work.  If she weren't doing that for a living, I'm sure there are modeling agencies out there that would start a bidding war on her.  But, Pauwlina belongs to us and we're not letting her go anywhere now.  She's just given birth to a pair of beautiful daughters, and I hope nothing but the best for her as time begins to take flight.  And it will!  With each birthday of her kids, she'll see what I mean.

Philip Oneill -- I've known Phil and his wife Debby for upwards of 25 years now.  Debby had a string of questionable boyfriends too until Phil came along, and now they're married and they've produced some offspring of their own.  Phil's come a long, long way since I first got to know him.  By no means am I surprised by his success, though.  He's a good guy who'll do anything for anyone who deserves it.

Rick Cook -- Brother Rick is arguably the most generous, greatest human being I know.  I've never known of anyone more giving, sensitive, caring or patient than this guy is, and I bet everyone would have something over-the-top nice to say about him.  He's been there for me anytime I've ever needed him, even when I didn't think I needed help, he was there.  He's raised three fantastic boys who continue to be big supporters of him, and the fruits of his labor will blossom in the years to come.  Rick is one of those guys that if cloning becomes legitimate, they need to tap him as a resource.

Rose Piedad -- Another filipina friend from myb.  What a sweet, caring friend Rose has become over these last couple of short years.  I feel like I've known her far longer.  She claims that I've always been there for her and offered words of encouragement when she needed it the most, and I hope that's true.  I want to continue to do that.  I know for a fact she's brought a smile to my face at times I really needed it.  Rose will always and forever be my friend.

Roxanne Felker Yelton -- My Roxy girl lives in South Carolina, and she's another myb alum.  Wow... this is another gal who's gone through her share of hell, but got revenge by not letting it get the best of her.  There are so many inspiring people I've met on myb, and Roxanne is a shining example.  Once again, I'm very lucky to have found her... or maybe she found me, she might tell you that!  Roxy's a sweetie.

Ruby Colpitts -- Ahhh, Ruby... don't know if she'll ever read this.  I didn't know what to expect going into my newest job, with Ruby being one of the management team I answer to, but what I got with her is a walking stand-up comedy routine.  There are laughs day in and day out with Ruby around at work. And I say this about Ruby:  She is the heart and soul of the place I work at.  Without her, I'm not sure how fun the job would be, but it certainly wouldn't be AS fun.  Ruby rocks!

Ryan Cook -- Katie's other half and Rick's kid.  Ryan's one of those guys where you'd say the world is his oyster.  He's a wealth of knowledge in computers, and of course that's how he earns his living.  Ryan's very quickly maturing into quite the young man, as I can actually see him growing as a person more and more each year.  I'm really proud of this guy.  Once he and Katie start making babies, all that growth is going to come in handy.

Sam SA -- A myb friend, Sam is a woman that I truly feel blessed getting to know.  Her neck of the woods is Tehran, Iran, which opens a huge portal into a world that would be otherwise obscured except by media.  Sam is an extremely smart woman with a remarkably open personality, who is gracious with her socializing skills and sees everyone as equals.  She's truly a blessing to know.  And truly, she's one of the most beautiful women I've ever laid eyes on!  Equally beautiful inside.

Sara Richard -- Formerly Sara Carter.  I know she'll love me saying that, though she's still a Carter at heart.  I've watched Sara mature from her teens into where she is now, a smart, beautiful, charming honey who's a wife now to a man she truly deserves.  I'm happy for a whole lot of couples, but I'm especially happy for these two, because they came into each other's lives at a time when they needed one another the most, perhaps.  Sara is woman who is the girl I once knew again, if that makes sense, and I absolutely love her for it.

Shawn Cook -- Shawn is the younger of brother Roy's two boys.  What a wonderful guy he is to be around.  Like his brother Chris, for that matter like his dad, you can talk to Shawn about anything and make it a great conversation.  Shawn is a guy you will meet and afterwards you would swear you've known him a couple of years; an everyman.  Hard to keep track of though!  He's always on the move, literally globetrotting.  He has an insatiable curiousity for life that he continually investigates.  He's not just a nephew, but one of my best friends.

Steve Kokic -- Steve and me go back nearly 30 years.  He's one of the rare guys I can connect with on a level that I can't with just anyone else, in that we're both pretty open minded to matters of cosmology and matters of the unknown.  I imagine that makes us sound like flakes to some people, but that's why I mean he's one of the rare ones I can talk to on that level.  It's good that we're connected on facebook where he's quite a few miles away.

Sue Mahoney Sadler --  Sue's a backyard across-the-street neighbour we kind of keep an eye on, and she does with us.  Although she doesn't have a patio door window like we do where we sometimes do laundry in our underwear beside; we only get to see her smoking.  Sue, it's time to quit!

Sue Matthews -- Another friend dating back to the mid '80s.  Sue and me were in the same classes together a lot, though she's far smarter.  I've never had any kind of issue with Sue whatsoever anytime, and never heard a mean word come out of her mouth.  She's a sweet gal that I'm proud to call a friend for such a long time, and always will.

Tammy Cook -- Tammy is my nephew Matt's wife and supermom of the twins and another little boy.  If there's a paint-by-numbers direction kit on how to be a great mom/friend/wife, maybe Tammy should put it together and patent it.  I might not know her really well or anything, but I certainly know enough to see the nature of her, and the way she treats others and makes you feel when she's around.  This is definitely another case of two people that belong together.  Good on them.

Valerie Robichaud -- Another myb friend who became better friends on facebook.  I've known Val for a couple of years now, and I think we've both seen each other through some rather up and down and crazy days.  I know for sure she's seen more than her fair share of crazy times, and I do hope that those have come to a close.  Everyone has their tough times, but enough already for her.  I've got my eye on you, Val!

Vangi Dube -- My friend/co-worker, the cosmetician where I work.  This gal's got a lot of spirit, let me say.  She's drop dead beautiful and lean, friendly as they come, but I wouldn't want to piss her off!  She scares me and I've told her.  I don't know what it is!  I mean that in a funny friendly way of course.  She's another just-married friend just discovering matrimonial bliss.  I'm sure she'll find it very rewarding, and I hope she works where I do as long as I work there.

Wayne Weldon -- Another bud from the mid '80s era.  Wayne's in a pretty successful local cover band called 7 Come 11, and we see each other fairly regularly through work, where he makes deliveries to our receiving area.  It's pretty amazing to see the transformation of the old Wayne to the current family-man Wayne, not that there was a problem with the old Wayne.  They're one and the same essentially, but to hear him talk about kids without wincing is kind of .... odd!  But good.  Wayne's a cool guy.

Wendy Macneill --  I think Wendy is my longest standing friend of all of them.  I remember her from all the way back to grade 1, in Mrs. Touche's class, if I remember that right.  I've seen Wendy have to bid farewell to too many friends in the last little while, so I imagine times will be better as she moves forward.  Wendy's as good a friend now as she was back in school days, when back then I didn't make a lot of real friends.

Honorable mentions (not friends on fb)..............

Tim Churchill -- One of my very, very best friends, Tim is a faithful reader of this blog, I think, and always makes an effort to keep in touch, when I'm kind of lax in that department.  Tim's one of the smartest people I know, yet he treats everybody one and the same with respect.  He's a Jesus nut like I am, though like me not always well behaved, and is a great husband to his woman Nicole and father to his two big little girls.  He gives me far more credit than I expect from anyone, something I will forever appreciate.  Tim truly is a brother from another mother.  And co-KISS Army soldier!

Peter Cook -- Another faithful Ragnar reader.  He calls me the 'Ragman'.  Pete brought a lot of calm to the Cook seas when all hell broke loose here on Ragnar at one point.  He is the patriarch of the Cook family, and the oldest, giving us all a beacon as to what we ought to be in the years ahead.  Pete is a role model to me as much as he is a friend, brother, and inspiration.  It's a pleasure to share time with him when we can with his drop dead lovely woman Bonnie.  Good times ahead.

Greg Cook -- I've probably caused more than a little heartache to my beloved brother Greg over the past few months due to my shortsighted slights on some past situations.  I'm sorry for everything, Greg. I'm sorry to your wife and everyone around you.  We will all be one again should I be granted forgiveness from you and yours.  All my brothers are some of my best friends, you certainly included.

Roy Cook -- The best man at my last saying of the vows in the Catholic Church.  Lobman, there have been crazy days and nights in the last year, but let there be crazier days and nights of the lighter hearted variety in this year to come, and beyond.  You're still my 'best man'.  I love you, bro.

Debbie and Cindy -- Should you be reading this, let us all convene as one family from this point on with peace and happiness and joy pervading the atmosphere forevermore.  Geez, where'd that come from!  I almost sound smart!  There need not be anymore division for any reason anymore among us.

I guess that about does it.  I think six hours straight on the Macbook is enough to type this out.

The common theme throughout this I think, is that I wish peace, happiness and good times for everyone that I mentioned here.  I especially pray that my family regains the unity that we had in the past.  Mom and Dad would certainly want me to do that.  Perhaps that's where I'm getting the guidance to do this to begin with.

See you all again next year, maybe with an even bigger list to write about eh?

Happy New Year, and a great 2012 to you all.