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Newsletter Vol. # 4 That's how I see it!

A very good person I knew passed away a week ago. We didn't see much of each other, our lives led us in different directions but when we did cross paths I knew he was special, he was a genuinely good man. He loved his family, music, God-- he loved his life. This world is better for him having been in it.

When someone dies that I care about I am reminded of my own mortality. His passing certainly got me thinking about my own life--where I am at, and what I still want to do/accomplish/visit/feel - I plan to work on this.

I am reminded of a column written by Lindor Reynolds, a Free Press reporter whom I have a great deal of respect, about her struggles with cancer and her inevitable death. The tears come every time I read her words.

It would be an understatement to say that a year ago, I got a kick in the teeth when I was diagnosed with brain cancer. Now, I can no longer brush my own teeth.

My new mailing address is Riverview Health Centre, where I have come to die, although you're not supposed to say that here. When they brought me here, they promised I would never feel pain again, and they have been pretty true to that. When there is pain, there is a kind nurse with a needle and a machine to lift my sore, useless body into a wheelchair. I can no longer walk independently. I hate the loss of independence, of needing someone to wash me and help with basic bodily functions. When you need someone to wash your face for you, it's a new low. I feel I've ceased to be me, and it's hard not to spend every day crying.

I have been unable to do any writing. I miss that like crazy, of course.
But what it has made me realize is how very much I miss you, the readers.
There have been some celebrations this year. My daughter got married last week, and I was able to attend. After days of practice sitting up in a wheel-chair, the staff deemed me ready to go. Another decision was made for me.

But what has the past year meant? Have I had insights available only to those who have the curtain lifted back to reveal some deep meaning? I'm reminded of the observation Randy Pausch made when he wrote "The Last Lecture"; simply that time is all you've got until you realize you have a finite amount.

My Christian faith has carried me through. It's stronger than it ever was. My church family has been there for me. All around my room are things from them, both from the church I attend now -- Holy Trinity -- and the one I used to attend, St. Vital's St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church.

The thing I struggle to get across is how useless I feel physically... and intellectually. I suppose I'm not entirely useless. I've been able to find meaning in fundraising. I started a campaign to build a school in Kenya through a program of Free the Children run by Craig and Marc Kielburger. A garden party to raise money pushed the campaign over the top. Enough was raised for three schools.

But truthfully? It was an act of selfishness that allowed me to give back. I say an act of selfishness because I did it for me. I didn't do it for Kenya. Is that insightful? Maybe, but I don't think I'm capable of being insightful right now. Insight? I wish I hadn't smoked as a teenager, but I don't think I gave myself cancer.

I do know this: Choose your friends carefully. They're the ones who'll be wiping drool off your chin. Something you should know: People have to laugh at your jokes when you have cancer.

I've discovered how insanely insecure I am, how much affirmation I need.
I have been unable to do any writing. I miss that like crazy, of course. But what it has made me realize is how very much I miss you, the readers.

A year ago, I wrote a column telling you about this diagnosis and that I would be out of touch for a while as I fought the monsters. Please know you have been the greatest gift to me. You have allowed me into your homes, your lives as I have done this most marvellous of jobs. We have laughed, cried, been angry, and in the end, been a little bit better from our connections. I know I have.

I was thrilled to be offered the chance to write this. It was the best gift Free Press editor Paul Samyn could have given me, other than chocolate.

Lindor Reynolds

There are a great many heroic people in the world. Lindor Reynolds is one of mine.

        Consider not:
What can I expect from life?
but rather
What is life expecting of me?
What is the meaning of life?
but rather
What does life mean to me?

Are you willing to take responsibility to make life what you think it ought to be?

"It did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life - daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."
                                     Viktor Frankl--Man's Search for Meaning



One year, I decided to buy my mother-in-law cemetery plot as a Christmas gift...
The next year, I didn't buy her a gift.
When she asked me why, I replied,
"Well, you still haven't used the gift I bought you last year!"
And that's how the fight started...
My wife and I were watching Who Wants To Be A Millionaire while
we were in bed.
I turned to her and said, 'Do you want to have Sex?'
'No,' she answered. I then said,
'Is that your final answer?'
She didn't even look at me this time, simply saying, 'Yes'
So I said, "Then I'd like to phone a friend."
And that's when the fight started...

Cayman Islands, 2014

I wrote this article almost a year ago when I was not producing the newsletter and so I could not share our trip with you back then. As we get ready, later this month, to return to the island- I give you my thoughts from our last visit.

I have written about my trips to the Cayman Islands before, but this was a very different trip. This was the second year in a row that Lisa, our daughter, was a part of the trip. Last year she and Miliah, her daughter, spent two weeks with my wife Drinda and myself at Lighthouse Point. This is the home of Nancy, Drinda's sister, and her husband Jay. They are owners of "Divetech", a very successful dive and condo operation on the Caymans. We were fortunate enough to stay in one of their lovely condos again this year but what made this second year so different was that we had Miliah's younger brother-Conner with us. I had forgotten just how labour intensive two little kids were. Lisa and Drinda kept them busy most of the time. Grandpas can be quite effective but not when kids are overtired- it takes a mother to get that back on track.

Come to think of it there were really two parts to the holiday. The first two weeks with kids and the last two weeks without kids, wife or daughter. The first two weeks we did a lot of beach, pool, and dropping in to kid's gyms. I managed to sneak off a few times with Brad (our son who lives on the island) to golf. The rust on my golf swing was at least 2 inches thick the first couple of games but things got better and certainly by the second two weeks- I had game. Holidaying in paradise can be beautiful but not particularly restful for the main caregivers of the children. I'm sure rest came with routine back home.

They got on the plane to go home and I was sad to see them go. However, I did contain myself long enough to see the plane take off before I dashed to the golf course. The next two weeks were spent writing-3 to 4 hours a.m., coffees out, jerk chicken wraps for lunch, golf in the p.m., and suppers out with Brad who had been working all day. We ate out at several of the fine local restaurants but found the hockey playoffs so compelling that we most often stayed home and filled our faces with take-out and beer.

After the ladies left, I lost my wonderful condo at Lighthouse Point for the next two weeks - something about the owner wanting to stay in his own condo- the nerve! So I stayed at Brad's one-bedroom apartment. Seeing as he was working long hours in extremely hot temperatures, he got the "proper bed" and I got the blow-up bed. Actually it was very comfortable. Evening comes early in the Caymans and with Brad having to work the next day I found myself with a great deal of time to read and it was great. Back home it takes me six months to read a book because by the time I get to bed at 11:30-12:00 I read a page and promptly fall asleep.

The golf course on Caymans, Northsound, is a wonderful course and a friendly place to spend time. Most afternoons I would wander over and play a round with one of Brad's friends-Dave the bartender at Northsound, Jeff, Matt and Robin, Ross-all good players and fun to be with. I would sometimes play nine holes by myself and Brad would join me for the second nine after work. The staff at Northsound-Jeff the manager, Jason, Chile, and Brad, the club's golf pros, couldn't have been nicer. Sitting the patio at the course watching the clouds pick up the red hue from the setting sun, the palm trees rustling with the occasional breeze, and Dave's special "Rusty Nail" in my clutches- Paradise indeed!

Well the holiday is nearly over. The reality of the last two weeks will be altered greatly when I climb on that plane tomorrow and fly back to Canada. But that's okay; I go home to Drinda, Lisa and the kids, my friends, clients, a way of life I chose and continue to look forward to. However, I'm always sad when I leave the Caymans. It means leaving Brad-who is no longer the boy who left home, but a man "in charge" of his life and destiny. I am sad but comforted by the choices he continues to make.

If you ever get a chance to visit the Caymans, please do so, you'll love it! You'll love to see the sunset sitting at the Palms, or at Cobalt Coast, or a visit to Stingray City, diving the Kittiwake (sunken ship), enjoying a cold one after a snorkel at Rum Point, or a visit to the only authentic distillery of spirits on the Cayman Islands-7-Fathoms Rum (co-owner Walker, my nephew).

For sure you'll be glad you came and like me, sad to leave.

Well, I think I'll go pack for this year's trip (2015) to the Caymans!

Did You Know

That stressful life events in childhood can lead to changes in the brain that appear to be related in adulthood to autoimmune diseases like Lupus, to chronic pain conditions and Fibromyalgia. The brain and mind have been linked to many illnesses previously thought to be purely physical like diabetes, heart disease, and chronic pain conditions.


What Is Wellness?

What is wellness? Wellness is a personal approach to self-managing your existence in an effective manner I favour the term "lifestyle artistry" to describe this mindset. "Not every artist lives well, but everyone who lives well is an artist" Wellness is a perspective, not only for optimal health, but also for a life of balance, joy, love and many of those kinds of feelings experienced as often as possible- while still being responsible and reaching out to serve others. Wellness is a way of reminding yourself of the big picture needed for living life in such a way that you enjoy maximum freedom, including freedom from illness/disability and premature death, to the extent possible. And freedom to experience life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is a declaration of independence for becoming the best kind of person that your potentials, circumstances and fate will allow. It's a way to help folks think about health from a performance point of view. Thus, wellness is a way of defining reality. In short, wellness-as self-managing lifestyle artistry entails a disciplined, conscious pursuit of a dynamic state of physical and psychological health well- being beyond the mediocrity of normal non-sickness, or the standard level of dysfunctional mindsets.

Wellness certainly is not that sissy stuff you find in medical-oriented, prevention-dominated health education materials. Wellness is for those who think about life beyond just health, who favour an approach to excellence that celebrates the search for meaning and purpose, humour, adventure and all that is within your power and reach that seems positive, moral, worthy and of consequence.
                                                                                                                     Donald B. Ardell

Wellness, cancer, death--Life sure has it's peaks and valleys doesn't it? The weather is changing for the better and so life looks better to those of us not touched by ill health or dire circumstances. We look forward to Spring and getting outside in the sunshine, the yard, lunch on the patio. Winters in Manitoba are long and sometimes harsh (although not so much this year). We are forced in-doors for long stretches of time and get to feel lethargic and irritable. Well it's time to get out the walking shoes and head down to the Forks--+14 today (Sunday). Get your partner, your kids, in my case grandkids and get outside.

Have a great week.


That's how I see it!