March 27, 2008


exceptions may not prove the rule, they might just mean that the rule needs changing

There is an old saying about exceptions proving the rule and as a confirmed contrarian, I am always on the look out for things that don't fit, that don't belong and especially for rules that need a second look. This idea of looking to exceptions, in order to find out what is possible, may be most important, as well as visible, in health care and yet, it is most often overlooked by its practioners and their patients alike. For every fatal disease or illness, everyone is aware of someone who has succeeded in beating the odds. You and I know people who have achieved complete and total cancer cures after being given only weeks to live. We have all heard of miracles and perhaps even witnessed a few as someone, as if by magic, recovers from a fatal disease or overcomes a lifelong challenge. Exceptions to conventionally accepted wisdom abound, such as the person who lives to 110 and has smoked and drank all of their lives. Don't even think about how many times the scientists have created and retracted the coffee warnings. We all know people who never get sick no matter how often they are exposed to flu and cold bugs while others catch the grip by just thinking about it. Mass hysteria generally follows warnings about killer viruses, the disease du jour and whatever other nonsense the media likes to make into headlines. So, how come everybody exposed to SARS and the Avian Flu didn't die? Why is it that some people never get sick while others spend most of their time at the doctor's office. It's more than genetics because you can find these variances within families, within households and within lifetimes.
I suppose my point is that "science and medicine," who are both constantly changing their stories or opinions, might want to look at the people who don't get sick and find out why. Assuming of course, that science, medicine and pharmaceutical manufacturers have any interest in keeping people healthy. No one ever got a headache because they were aspirin deprived. I suspect that the power of suggestion is much stronger than the so called cure alls that are prescribed - and for heavens sakes, don't read the warning label on those drugs - no wonder you're sick!

March 25, 2008


sometimes naivete and the search for the simple answer leads us directly to the truth, without the need for a stop at Opinions and Spin.

About 50 years ago, I recall one of the household chores that I had was mixing the margarine. For those of you too young to remember, margarine became a substitute for butter because it was cheaper. It was much later that some marketing yobbo created the story about it being a healthier alternative, in order to increase sales. Originally, margarine was sold in a plastic bag that contained about a quart of white congealed fat that looked suspiciously like the lard my mother used in her pie crusts. It also had the same hard consistency of lard with the added attraction of a capsule of red/orange dye embedded in the bag. The idea was to continually work, or knead the bag with your hands to accomplish two ends 1. it softened the contents and 2. it broke the capsule and spread its constituents throughout the bag, colouring the mixture to resemble butter. It was thought that this would be much more attractive when spread on our toast.

One day I was standing in our living room, hard at work squeezing the bag of white, semi-hard, something-or-other, when my sister did, or said, something to tick me off. She was like that in those days and as I remember the story, what followed was clearly her fault. I threw the bag at her as she sat on the couch and naturally, being the wonderful brother that I am, didn't want to actually hit her, so aimed just above her head. The bag of goo hit the wallpapered background and split open, depositing its contents all over the wall, the floor and maybe a bit on her. I vaguely recall some unpleasant repercussions as she mistakenly blamed me for the incident when my mother came running in to investigate the screaming. I stood there innocently watching the greasy stuff slide down the wall behind the couch and accumulate on the hardwood floor.

We moved several years later and the mark was still on the wall from the butter look alike and no matter what was tried, it would never wash off. I imagine that if you visited 19 Cherry St. in Kitchener today, that section of the wall still can't be painted over. My guess is that most of the margarine that so many of us have ingested over the years, hasn't disappeared from our bodies either. Healthy alternative indeed! And there you have it, the etymology (history) of the term, "Lard Ass." Aren't you glad you called me that?

March 22, 2008


Easter: the time and the opportunity for our rebirth

It is probably no coincidence that the Christian calendar celebrates the rebirth of Christ in the springtime. (I wonder how I would approach this if I lived in the southern hemisphere?) This feels like the perfect time for most of us to compare the emergence of plant life with the emergence of new attitudes and new possibilities. Both are born from the roots of the past but hold the promise of the future. It may also be the perfect time to consider the creation of a bigger view and a larger perspective about our world and our place in it. Easter is generally recognized as a religious time but often brings with it the sadness of sectarian violence as the politics of God-worship overshadows the spirituality and joy of new birth.

I am always disappointed by the competition between Christian sects and wonder how He views the myopic opinions of groups supposedly dedicated to His praise. So many seem to be bogged down in minutiae and conflicting man-made rules that I wonder if they can ever get about the job of becoming spiritual beings. This constant clamouring to prove that there's is the one true way, gets in the way of living and loving and seeking enlightenment that is ours for the realizing. I wonder how we can get beyond this constant need to show that my God is better than your God and get on with the job of living and creating a world full of peace, prosperity, joy and freedom? Perhaps it starts with us as individuals, because God knows that the religions of the world can't figure out how to do it.

If Easter and spring are a time of rebirth and renewal, it may be appropriate for you and I to take a pledge of tolerance and understanding and begin sowing the seeds, one at a time, for the emergence of inspiration and the growth of a spirituality that respects each person for their unique abilities and contributions. Could we allow the egg of Easter to be the time that we will break through the shell of hatred and let a new beginning emerge, starting with each of us today. May the sun shine on you and yours, this Easter Sunday.

March 21, 2008


"a life well lived has more to do with quality than quantity"

When you can count customers, employees, neighbours and family among your friends, then life is a success. Wayne can count these and many more in that category. He is a man rich in experience, common sense, loyalty, appreciation, honesty, generosity, humour, intelligence, courage and love who uses his quiet nature to build a family business by insisting on doing the right thing, rather than the expedient thing. Quality always comes before quantity when Wayne decides on what course to follow as he makes both personal and business decisions. His sense of integrity provides a beacon that shows the rest of us that the path that leads to accomplishment, must occasionally be tested by making choices for the greater good, rather than our own. He often sacrifices his love of golf for the feel of a power drill and always stays until the job is done.

A cigar in one hand and a Callaway in the other, he approaches his ball like he approaches everything else, with a keen eye, a steely focus and a smooth swing. One of life's joys is to share a cart with Wayne and watch the smile light up his face when he drives the ball straight down the fairway and can smell a birdie putt coming up. He is quick to share that joy when his partner or opponent manages to hit the ball with any kind of success. The pat on the back is expressed with a heartfelt "atta boy" and a genuine warmth that can be felt long after the game ends. His ability to laugh at an errant shot, whether his or someone else in the foursome, makes Wayne the ideal person to spend a few hours enjoying the fresh air, the mountains and the blue sky with. Never shy to order another beer and pick up more than his share of tabs, his fun is shared with family and friends in an atmosphere of genuine kindheartedness that is the hallmark of his life.

My friend, you continue to make a big difference in the lives of everyone who knows you. I hope that the peace that comes from knowing love and joy will be with you this Easter weekend. Here's to you Wayne, a clink of glasses and a drag on a good Cuban cigar and my wish for one more round on the links with one of life's gentle men.

March 18, 2008


What is a legend anyway? There are cars called legends, sports figures, horses, authors, comedians, actors and an increasing number of fairly recent events, products and people, but I wonder..... I always consider a legend to be something positive that has stood the test of time. Aye, but there's the rub, how much time needs to pass before the term legend can be applied?

1 a: a story coming down from the past; especially : one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable

That's how Webster's online dictionary describes the word. Still nothing definitive about time, so that is apparently subject to some further interpretation. I find it difficult to apply the term legend to someone who still has a significant degree of their life ahead of them and so recently retired sports figures, 50-something rock and rollers, politicians and business people don't really rate the term in my mind. They might some day, but don't you find the media and marketing types far too quick to call all sorts of questionable events and products legendary?

I suppose that the fact that Webster's suggests that the idea of a legend is unverifiable would lend some credence and justification to the word's use. They do use the word "historical" in their definition however and so that may hold some sort of key to solving my dilemma.

1 a: of, relating to, or having the character of history b: based on history c: used in the past and reproduced in historical presentations

So, even Webster's can't provide a specific amount of time to determine something that is historical and by extension, this would apply to the word legend. However, they do offer a strong hint with the use of the phrase "in the past" and for me, that confirms the need for the whole affair to be something that is finished in some way. All of this verbiage to tell you that the word "legend" is vastly overused in our world of hype and hyperbole and a great case in point is the commercial that inspired this particular writing. In response to the claim that the McRib sandwich is "legendary," I can only say that it is, at the very least, unverifiable.

Now, if we wanted to talk about some of my historical St. Patrick's Day exploits, the ones that I still don't want my kids to know about - now they would be "legendary."

March 17, 2008


I seem to change my spots from time to time. The other day I was talking with an old friend and I realized that I have a number of different people living inside me and I wonder if I am alone in that. Depending on whom I am talking with and a number of other circumstances, I morph into everything from a foul mouthed truck driver, to a business executive, a writer, an intellectual, a sports nut, a handyman and some sort of self-styled spiritual guru along with several other characters who emerge from time to time. Two different people last week recommended a change in my blogs; one recommended that I spend much more time talking about sports and drop the "touchy feely" stuff. The second person, who reads me regularly, felt that I should focus on more spiritual matters and even suggested a name change to "Soul-Gas." I dare say that I could poll a few others who might want me to spend more time on stories about my misspent youth and other indiscretions. All of these people think they know who I really am, deep down.

I find myself waxing poetic about matters of the heart and soul, talking of dimensions of spirituality and comparisons between Christianity and universal intelligence theories with overtones of past and future lives and our ability to attract, through our thoughts, anything we want. A moment later, I can walk into a warehouse and trade four letter word bombs with anyone in earshot and not flinch for a second. That same day, I feel perfectly comfortable castigating the local NHL team's lethargic power play and on a dime, switching to the many foibles of government's local, provincial and national. Don't even get me started on the International scene!

I can make a case for this identity confusion by referring to my life long need to fit in and realizing that I never have. Somehow this need to discover who I am has forced me to try and be everyone, without ever finding a persona that fits inside my skin. I can be friends with priests, alcoholics, street people, lost souls, social climbers, rich, poor, successful, secretaries, grocery clerks, managers - pick a title, if you must and I don't find it particularly difficult to see myself in the role. All of that being said, my reason for writing this semi regular diatribe, is to allow some of this excess energy to find an outlet by writing about whatever is on my mind, without regard to a particular focus. Sure, I could create a few more blog sites and then concentrate my thoughts towards politics, sports, humanity and whatever other areas pop up, but that wouldn't be who I am. I could flatter myself with words like multi-dimensional, diverse and complex but find myself infinitely more attracted to confused, undisciplined and unlabelled.

Furthermore, if that d*** team doesn't get its collective head out of its collective a**, then they'll be playoff pretenders instead of contenders! And if they don't make it to the post season show, just watch how colourful the ***k*** warehouse gets!!

March 12, 2008


Colour me confused when it comes to health care. I seem to have my feet firmly planted in at least two different camps - probably more. First of all, I should state that I am and always have been, pretty healthy according to most definitions. In as much as heredity has to do with health, I learned last summer that my birth father is/was, very healthy as well. As a result, it is very possible that I approach this subject with a little too much arrogance and while arrogance may be one of the seven sins, I don't think it is recognized as a health issue yet. A part of me would like to think that arrogance, of a sort, may be the difference between good and bad health, but I will leave that thought for another time.

I seem to be surrounded by people experiencing a wide variety of medical problems these days, which probably says more about my age than about the specific people involved. Perhaps I should start by stating my basic health philosophy which started when I read a statement that has stuck with me for over 40 years. Simply said: nature is always seeking balance, it is never in balance, but everything to achieve this state, exists naturally. I translate that statement to mean that for every disease and illness, there is something within the natural world that counterbalances or neutralizes it. The study of civilizations and cultures prior to our current one, produces volumes of evidence about the use of naturally based cures for virtually every ailment known to mankind. This kind of practice successfully exists all over the world, by cultures thousands of years older than ours, even though it is dismissed by our conventional Western based institutions.

In my own mind there are 4 independent and interdependent areas of medical practice vital to our survival:

1) the power of using our own thoughts to create good health or otherwise, that works constantly and efficiently with or without our consciously knowing about it
2) the choices we make about our own lifestyle and whether we pay attention to what we put into our bodies and how we use or abuse those same bodies
3) the need for trained practitioners to repair damages like cuts, breaks and emergencies, as well as help us with the relief of pain and the advice that aids in our recovery from various ailments
4) an interdisciplinary area to research and find solutions to the many man-made health issues like asbestos poisoning, unsafe additives, noise, air and water pollutants, abuses of any sort that will consider the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of the human race

To find the truth about what is possible in any kind of health care, we need to look at the exceptions to find the solutions. If one person is "miraculously" cured of cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer's, depression or hangnails then it becomes possible for you and I to find the same kind of cure. Society's fixation with solving symptoms rather than discovering their cause, hasn't worked all that well. Perhaps we need to add a healthy dose of scepticism to our health formula along with some open-minded research into alternatives. I like to keep these blogs to "bathroom reading" length, as much for my sake as yours, so I will revisit some of these thoughts in the future. In the meantime, my challenge to you is to think about taking back some of the responsibility for your health from the doctors, the overcrowded hospitals and the no-alternative drug companies.

March 10, 2008


I may have been a tad insensitive with my last posting. Imagine my chagrin, when watching the late news, to see the video of record setting snow falls on the eastern side of the continent while our little corner of the world enjoyed spring-like conditions. We, in the wild west, know of your concern when our temperatures plunge, the drifts deepen and the mountain run-off floods our rivers and so I would like to say how sorry I am for sounding so callous and uncaring. I just don't know why I could have been taking such pleasure in basking in the warm sunshine with a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc while many of you risked heart attacks from shovelling snow. I assume the City of Toronto, once again, had the armed forces on high alert to clear their roads.

It's not like parts of the East were not in my mind. In particular, the lovely city of Ottawa, with its beautiful old buildings, tree lined river, museums, limping hockey team and parliament hill were upper most in my thoughts as I prepared my overly complicated, annual tribute to the political gods and their bureaucratic minions who keep dreaming up new ways to separate those of us in the hinterlands from our cash. Oops, I may have seemed a tad ungrateful this time. In fact, this guilt that I am feeling, may have been visited upon me by Gods of a different feather, who seem to have favoured our Eastern brethren with additional moisture while I was forced to sit on the lanai again yesterday as the temperatures rose slightly higher.

It is my fervent hope that all members of my family from the great Eastern regions of the nation will feel the full force of our thoughts of love, reverence and respect and that along with our lifelong fealty, will continue to collect and disperse our tax dollars amongst themselves. This wonderful seasonal migration of payments to the Eastern coffers should continue until hell freezes over. Oh, and to my cousins in Michigan - apparently Hell is frozen over.

March 8, 2008


....the livin' is easy.

Some people are solar powered, at least I know that I am. Saturday afternoon, no one else at home, birds trilling in the trees, wind chime softly announcing its notes, 70's easy rock wafting through the screens, +15 C on the west facing deck, a neighbour across the park joins an opera recording in progress - WOW. No need for job jars today, it's time to recharge the batteries and let my mind wander to palm trees, hammocks, ocean breezes and the joys of life.

I hope you are also having weather where you are.


One of the frustrating things about a eulogy is that the subject never gets a chance to read or comment on it. The self-help crowd often play a game where the participants write their own eulogy in order to set new goals and change their life to reflect new-found inspiration. It's not a bad idea in some ways, but probably has a tendency to get a little too long and weighty. I like what a friend of mine is now using as his inspiration for the balance of his life; "Finish well."

This phrase doesn't waste time on regret, disappointment, dissatisfaction or other negative energy suckers but rather, incorporates and accepts history and focuses on the future that we have left, regardless of the amount of time. Now wouldn't that make a great eulogy, "He finished well." All that is needed to make this true is to look at our current life and decide to wait no longer, to live the one we want. Instead of marking time, we start making time. I find a few butterflies in my stomach as I read my own writing on this and wonder if I have the courage to step into the unknown - how about you? Will we finish well?

March 7, 2008


A dear friend turned sixty recently and I was honoured to speak at her birthday party along with a number of her friends and family. She is a woman who has always been the poster girl for the word "grace." Her wisdom and intelligence are immediately apparent when you enter into conversation with her. She has a sense of fun and innocent frivolity that is tempered by eyes that can see far beyond what is on the surface. She is very much in tune with her own intuition and has learned to trust its revealing powers, so much so, that I have witnessed her ability to bring forward information from people's memories, that had been buried for decades. Her grace comes forward on the many occasions that she chooses not to reveal this information. A sense of discretion and her unwillingness to bring hurt to others, have been the hallmarks of her living in a state of grace.

Her innocence covers an intensity of purpose, as she has a curiosity level the envy of any cat on earth and she knows how to use it! When in conversation with this beautiful woman, she exhibits a knack for asking questions that cause her companion to dig much deeper than they ever thought possible, for answers. These are real questions, about real issues that never seem challenging at first, but always lead to the questionee having to think and find a place of inner truth before answering. There lies her real power; after asking a question, she has the ability to wait patiently, for the answer. She is not tempted to interject her own voice into the silence but rather, she allows the person she is with, the time and space to search within. Her grace maintains control of the conversation as she asks, answers, cajoles, encourages, reveals and teaches without a trace of judgement in her voice, ever.

Happy Birthday to the sister of my heart.

March 6, 2008


When I was a mere lad, I learned about confession and that if I admitted my transgressions, then God would forgive me. I recall telling the priest about saying bad words, telling a few lies and having impure thoughts. Time does not seem to have cured much of that and why would I want it to? That first sin is considered to be an agressive management style, the second, a mainstay of political opinion and the third lets me know that I'm still looking at ground from the right side up.

However, there is something about this confession and forgiveness relationship that I either didn't understand as a child or perhaps it was taught too simply and not enough emphasis was put on the complete process. True healing of oneself comes through the forgiveness of others. To forgive others, we need to give up our anger, our fear and our resentment first, thus allowing us to take the focus off ourselves and look to a greater good. Letting go of the debilatating energy tied up in fear and anger that we harbour, allows a sense of freedom to enter into us and opens up room to feel joy. The step from there to forgiving someone else, seems a little easier and produces a vital link in the move towards being in a state of grace.

The other part of the story is seeking forgiveness for our own deeds and misdeeds which "confession" attempts to do. Because we cannot always communicate with the people we need forgiveness from, it is important to start with forgiving ourselves by acknowledging the error of our ways, making any changes necessary in our behaviours and thoughts and then setting a new standard for living. Being truthful with ourselves is the primary step in completing the circle of forgiving that moves us to a sense of wholeness.

One of the most powerful pictures in my mind of how this works, occurred a number of years ago when I watched a minister forgive the killer of his high school aged son and then a year or two later, another couple forgive their hockey playing son's teamate who was driving too fast, resulting in their boy's death. While I find it hard to imagine the courage that must take, it was clear that grace held a powerful part in creating the forgiveness that allowed them each to move forward.

I still like Louise Hay's affirmation in her book "You Can Heal Your Life," I forgive them for being ignorant - that has come in handy while driving the freeways lately and it saves freezing my finger while sticking it out the window. I'll check on that grace part again.

March 3, 2008


Everything in our world today is "instant" from puddings to advertising messages, from communications to opinions, from access to success and from information to results. There seems to be virtue in being the first to speak. We've all watched television sitcoms where conflict is created because of the miscommunication between two characters - one has more information than the other, yet conclusions are drawn and actions taken that result in needless conflict.

I always find it challenging, especially in relationships that are important, to formulate fast replies, unless they are either humorous or sarcastic, in which cases I usually get into trouble. For me, it is much easier to formulate answers in writing because I am forced to think about what I'm saying and then of course, I have the added benefit of a "delete" key. Too bad I don't have a delete switch for my mouth or at least more conversational partners who are willing to wait for an answer.

I'm not advocating a return to the past but there is a certain romance, in addition to truth and accuracy in the written word that allows us to consider the person on the reading end, as much as ourselves. I think this consideration offers the opportunity for more clarity, depth of thought and understanding. The need for speed in communicating has us thinking more about what we are going to say than what we are going to hear. The art of good listening gets lost and with it the possibility of really knowing the person we are with.

March 1, 2008


Many of life's lessons are accompanied by either pain or laughter and frequently they arrive together. I learned recently that my Uncle Jim is in the hospital and he, unwittingly, was one of my greatest teachers. We were a lot alike I think, in that I recall much tut tutting from some of his sisters when he was young and single - it doesn't seem that long ago and like his nephew later, there may have been a dram or two involved to cause the tut tutting. He got past that stage and married a wonderful woman whom I remember laughing uproariously, when this little snot of a city boy drank an entire bottle of heavy cream found on her front porch, thinking it was milk. That same summer, my uncle had taken yours truly into their home to help with farm chores and a glorious summer it was (in retrospect). There was the day he sent me into an outdoor pen to grab a young calf and bring it into the barn. I walked in, grabbed it around the neck and pulled it through the gate, at which point the calf spotted freedom and made a bolt for the open highways with me holding on for dear life. My uncle stood in the gravelled yard and laughed his head off as I got dragged from one side to the other, like a rag doll. Every time he told that story over the years, he would add the line that I never let go of the calf and it makes me proud to this day.

My days of being a wrangler came to a close when Uncle Jim decided that I should paint the farm house, a brick, 8 storey edifice that had faded wood trim at the very top, shrouded in clouds, or so it seemed to a young boy barely taller than the aforementioned calf. Up the rickety wooden ladder I climbed with paint can and brush held with the white knuckles of one hand and the other clutched to the rungs, as I pushed myself further skyward on wobbling legs. At the top end of the ladder, I had to stretch as far as I could and still came up short of the actual peak, but I stole a glance at the ground when I heard my uncle standing there laughing so hard he was crying - the very top never did get painted that summer, but many years later, I had a painting business with 5 crews working and I didn't allow them to leave the worksite without painting the very top, or I'd climb up and do it myself.

Another responsibilty, that long ago summer, was keeping the barn clean and I attacked the corridors with a push broom and much enthusiasm and he always expressed his pride in my efforts. Along with sweeping straw and hay, there was the need to keep various areas directly behind the cows and some hog living quarters, clean as well. This required the use of a shovel, a strong back and a concerted disregard for my sense of smell. Shovelling shit became my specialty and if you have read this far, you will see that that lesson was also well taught.

Thanks Uncle Jim and I'm glad to hear you are coming home from the hospital soon.