Monday, 31 October 2011

Adam and Eve Got Nothin' On Me - by Mike Sands

They say Adam and Eve had the perfect marriage.  He didn’t have to hear about all the guys she could have married and she didn’t have to hear about how good a cook his mother was.  Rodney Dangerfield’s marriage was far from ideal, as he was married to an unfaithful, untrusting woman who in Dangerfield’s clichĂ© quote, ‘gave him no respect’.  One day, Dangerfield came home and caught his wife in the arms of another man.  He shouted to her, “What do you think you’re doing?”  She turned to her lover and said, “See, I told you he was stupid.”  Another time Dangerfield said, “I met my wife at the front door one day, she was wearing only a sheer negligĂ©e. Unfortunately, she was just coming home.”  Dangerfield’s wife was not only unfaithful, she also didn’t trust him.  One day Dangerfield came home with a red smudge on his forehead.  His wife shouted at him, “LIPSTICK!”  Dangerfield stated, “No, I was in a terrible accident and I smashed my forehead into the steering wheel.”  She said, “Lucky for you!”  In the 1950’s, Hollywood instilled the standards of the perfect marriage with Ozzie and Harriet, June and Ward Cleaver.  In the 1970’s, Hollywood realized that these characters were unrealistic and did a 360 with such role models as Archie and Edith, Dan and Roseanne.
The perfect marriage doesn’t have to follow or avoid any of these marriages.  No marriage is going to be perfect as we are all individuals with different outlooks on the world.  We can’t expect our mate to line up exactly the way we think in every situation and therefore there will be conflicts now and again. We can look to the Bible in 1Corinthians to give us a guide to being a good mate. (Replacing the word ‘love’ with ‘mate’) “Love (mate) is patient, love is kind.  It is not self-seeking, not easily angered, it always protects, trusts and hopes.”
I look at my marriage where the incursion of my illness has brought to the forefront the marriage adage, ‘in sickness and in health’.   With the going getting tough, Nadine, my mate, has got going. My illness has made it difficult for me do regular activities of daily living that I once enjoyed.   I have difficulty putting on my socks and without asking, Nadine is there to give me a hand.  When riding our bikes on the dike, she always goes in between any loose running dogs and me, as she knows my reflexes are not up to snuff with dogs.  She is there to cut up my meat, give me massages, take me to my doctor appointments and the list goes on; all on top of doing her regular activities she always had, such as work.    She has exemplified the definition of a good mate from 1Corinthians.  Now I’m not saying there aren’t other mates out there who would do the same thing.  All I’m saying is that I have one of them.  It is fitting that with my Lou Gehrig’s disease that I quote Gehrig with his famous last words to his New York Yankee faithful; “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”


Thursday, 27 October 2011

Just Some Thoughts

I have been mad about something for a while now and yesterday and today I became really mad about it. I don’t get mad that easily, but when I do, I find that everything makes me mad. Things that don’t normally bother me, all of a sudden drive me crazy. This morning as I was stewing in my madness and growing more and more agitated, I was very tempted to start thinking about how mad I should be about Mike’s illness. I was very close to allowing myself to think about how maddening it is and how mad I could be! I knew if I let myself get mad about the ALS, I would go to a place it would be hard to come back from. The madness could very well turn to sadness and then it would be game over.
A few months ago, I watched a really sad movie. It was so sad I cried about it for hours and then the tears I cried about the movie turned into tears for Mike and I cried for about three days.
This morning while standing on the edge of a very slippery slope, I was reminded of Philippians 4:8, which says: Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
A re-directing of my thoughts needed to take place. I had to loosen my grip on this life and its strife and grab hold of God and think about things that are good, lovely, excellent and praiseworthy. While writing this blog on my lap top in my living room, I looked out the window and saw my son, Nathan and Mike walking home from the park pushing our granddaughter, Leah in her stroller. When they came in, Mike proceeded to take chestnuts out of his jacket pocket…one by one. It took him some time to take all 22 chestnuts out of his pockets and place them on the dining room table. I asked him how the park was and he said they didn’t stay at the park for long, but went to the chestnut tree (a tree we visited many times with our children when they were small…just a little ways down the street from the park). I could see that Mike had a lovely time with his son and granddaughter and it made me happy.
As I continued to type on my lap top, Mike asked, “What are you writing there?” I said, “Just some thoughts.” He said, “Do they bring you joy?” I replied with a very firm “YES!”

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Mike's Glass is Half Full

            Today Mike said to me that there was a positive side to taking so many pills…he gets the recommended eight glasses of water a day. The guy always looks on the bright side. When the big 'horse' pill goes down sideways and he gags it back up, he says he’s fine and tries again. He never complains.
            Mike’s glass is always half full. He is a positive person. When he was diagnosed with ALS on March 7th, he remained pretty hopeful that he had been misdiagnosed. When the doctor recommended that he stop working and go on long term disability, he said he could use some time off. When his right hand continued to weaken, he said, “It’s a good thing, I’m left handed.” When he was unable to run anymore, he was glad he could go for walks. When he gave up the walks, he was thankful he could still ride his bike. When he fell off his bike and landed on his face (again) and broke his nose, he said that the accident taught him to be more careful and perhaps it would prevent a worse accident down the road.
I was attracted to Mike’s positive attitude right away, and it’s a quality that has blessed me throughout our 23 years of marriage. Time and time again, Mike has helped me to put things in perspective and keep my chin up. On Mach 10th, only three days after Mike was first diagnosed, I couldn’t sleep, so I sat in bed and read. Mike woke up and asked if he could pray for me. He thanked God for choosing me for him, and asked the Lord to make my burdens light (a prayer he continues to pray for me every day). He went on to say that he was thankful for everything, even the things he doesn’t want. He prayed that he would learn what he is supposed to learn from the very humbling experience of being diagnosed with ALS. He said that the “humbling experience” will cause him to rely more on God.
Never try to live your life with God in any other way than His way. And His way means absolute devotion to Him. Showing no concern for the uncertainties that lie ahead is the secret of walking with Him. Oswald Chambers

                       Pictured - Mike getting back on his bike a couple of days after his last accident.

 (Today, Mike's face is completely healed - you would never know he broke his nose less than two weeks ago)

Saturday, 22 October 2011

The Georges and Sheilas of Our Lives

I received a phone message from my mom the other day. The message started with her singing one of her favourite songs by Stevie Wonder…”I just called to say I love you, I just called to say I care, I just called to say I love you…and I mean it from the bottom of my heart.” She went on to say, “If you need anything, just let me know.” And she signed off with her signature goodbye; “Chow” (really spelled “ciao”).
My mom’s name is Sheila and Mike’s mom just so happens to be Sheila as well. Our moms having the same name might not be that unusual, but here’s what’s unusual; our dads have the same name too (George). Having parents with the same names made it easy for us to name our children; Erin Sheila, Nathaniel George and Madison Sheila. In private, Mike tells his parents we named the kids after them and privately he tells my parents we named the kids after them. He is just trying to keep both inheritances in order.
Anyway, hearing my Sheila sing made me smile. Hearing her voice and her reminder “If you need anything, I am here for you,” brings so much comfort. Hearing Mike’s Sheila’s voice makes me smile too. She has a lovely Scottish accent that makes me want to listen…even to stories I have heard many times. I could sit and listen to her and her sister, Aileen reminisce for hours, recalling childhood memories growing up with their big brothers in Scotland and then immigrating to Canada in 1948.
When I call my parent’s house and my George picks up, it’s “HI DEE, how are you Dee?” He has called me Dee all my life. He doesn’t want to chat like my mom does, but he takes the time to make me feel like he really cares. As soon as he hears I am well and that I am happy, he says, “Okay, here is your mom. Let me know if you need anything.” I was told that when my mom was pregnant with my sister, my dad really wanted a boy. After having a baby girl and falling hear over heals for her, he wanted another girl when my mom was pregnant with me. I have always felt incredibly loved.
Mike’s George is the same as my George. He doesn’t want to talk all day, he simply wants to hear Mike’s voice…to know that Mike is okay and that he and his family are doing well. He is tough on the outside, but on the inside he is tender and soft hearted. He doesn’t say a lot, but you know he is there and you know he cares so much.
Our Sheilas still feed us and clothe us and slip us cash. Our Georges won’t let us pay for anything and would sooner die than see us suffer in any way. The Georges and Sheilas of our lives support us, care for us, love us, encourage us and treat us like gold. We feel blessed beyond measure!
Telling our parents about Mike’s diagnosis was harder than hearing it ourselves. We knew it would devastate them and that it did. But their strength inspires us and they continue to muster up the courage to walk with us through the toughest times of our lives. We love them and thank God for them every day!

Our Sheilas at the ALS Walk in Coquitlam, B.C. in August

My George and Sheila with Mike and his sister Aileen w/ Leah at the ALS Walk in Abbotsford in April

      Mike's sister Pat, Mike's Sheila and George, Erin and my Sheila - ALS Walk Coquitlam/August

                 Me and Mike and my parents at the ALS Walk in Abbotsford, B.C. last April

Thursday, 20 October 2011

In Sickness and in Health

Today, while I stretched Mike out and gave him a massage, I watched Say Yes to the Dress. It really struck me when the commentator said “Choosing the right dress, isn’t always easy”, my first thought was…how about choosing the right partner? The very excited and perhaps slightly naive bride lists the features she is looking for in a dress: traditional, fun, A-line, with beading, no lace, strapless etc. I watched and wondered if she made a list of the qualities she is looking for in a husband as well: honest, hardworking, sensitive, strong, romantic, smart, etc. Does she know that even if “Mr. Right” meets all the requirements on her list, there is no guarantee that the marriage is going to always go well. Any married person would probably agree that the only guarantee in a marriage is that there will be rough patches, ups and downs and some doubts.
Someone recently said to me that Mike and I are lucky to have such a good marriage. Lucky? What? It has nothing to do with luck! It does have a lot to do with God’s grace and answered prayer though. It also has a lot to do with hard work, sacrifice, commitment and bunch of other stuff. I didn’t have a list of features I wanted in a wedding dress, because I didn’t wear a wedding dress when I got married. I wore pink pants and a white blouse when we said our vows in Los Angeles where Mike and I eloped. I didn’t have a list of qualities I wanted in a husband either, because I was in love and that was good enough…I was an excited, naive bride as well.
I got married at nineteen, had a baby at 20 and one day woke up and wondered what happened. At one time I had three children under the age of six, I was running a business and teaching thirteen fitness classes a week…I was a little tired to say the least. Doing another load of laundry wasn’t that difficult, but keeping the home fires burning was. When Mike went to school and worked evenings, my needs went out the window. To be totally honest, if someone of the male persuasion gave me a second look, I acted like a giddy school girl. Maybe the grass did look greener on the other side at times.
As Mike and I walked and talked and pondered life together a few days before Mike was diagnosed with ALS, he said, “They say the grass is always greener on the other side….well, I guess I’m on the other side then.” We have dodged some bullets and have said a lot of prayers and are one of the “lucky” couples that have made it this far.
Mike and I haven’t been on a date for a while and I can’t remember the last candle lit dinner, but today I stretched out his hamstrings and he said it really helped…he was able to put his socks on. Now that’s wedded bliss!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Mine is Only Rated "PG"

I came home on Thursday after my hair appointment excited to tell Mike that when I went to pay for my hair cut, the lady at the till told me it had already been taken care of…including the tip. I knew right away it was either my mom or my sister who went ahead of me and paid. It was such a nice surprise, unlike the surprise I got when I went upstairs to tell Mike about it. I heard the shower running and figured Mike had just gotten back from his bike ride. I went into the bathroom and right away sensed something was wrong. I asked Mike from my side of the curtain if everything was okay and he said nothing. I looked at his clothes lying on the floor and saw blood. My heart sank.
I go bike riding with Mike almost every day and the day I go to the salon instead, he has another accident. Mike and I have an agreement…or so I thought. When I don’t go riding with him, he goes to the dirt track at the high school just down the street from us. I feel comfortable with that arrangement. He doesn’t have to cross any busy roads, there are no hills, there is no traffic etc. I thought I convinced him that the dike and other bike trips are best taken together. But like a rebellious child, Mike disobeyed and went to the dike by himself. 
He explained that a dog walked across his path and even though he slowed down, he was unable to steer around the dog and because of his loss of range of motion and strength in his arms, he was unable to catch himself when he hit the ground. So, needless to say, it was another “Look Away, I’m Hideous” all over again (see my blog). A little worse though, Mike broke his nose...the dog was fine.  I convinced him to see the doctor and his nose was taken care of…good old Dr. Wong.
All Mike could think about was the great pictures he got and the blog he was going to write (see the last post, “R” Rated). All I could think about was his family in Toronto and how upset they were going to be when they read about the incident. I insisted he keep the accident under wraps, but nothing can keep Mike from telling a good story…especially one that involves blood. I pleaded with him to leave it alone, but he had his mind made up. I had to let it go and thought if we share the good things and the inspiring things and the happy things, then I guess we should share the tough stuff too. Plus, Mike reminded me he was a grown man and would share whatever he wanted. I reminded him that it’s my blog.

Anyway, yesterday I got an email from our friend Audrey.  This is what she said: “On Saturday, when I saw Mike and his new injuries, and after he assured us that he was okay, I told him that we needed to get him bumper pads. That instantly brought back the memories of Madeline and the day she learned how to ride a bike.’’ Audrey told me the story of the day her daughter Madeline learned to ride a bike while Audrey watched from the window. Madeline emerged from the garage with a purple hockey helmet on. She got on her bike and after a few seconds, she fell. She went back into the garage and come out with elbow pads on. She got back on her bike and lasted a little bit longer, but fell again. She went back into the garage and came out this time with knee pads on. Madeline practiced riding her bike with her big sister and brother when they got home from school and was excited to surprise her dad when he got home from work. Audrey went on to say, “I read Mike has a new helmet and we could outfit him with knee pads and elbow pads but what to do about those man vs dog moments?! Thirteen years later I sit here wondering what Madeline would have done that day if she had to overcome the dog challenge too.  What would have come out of the garage next?  I'm sure she would have found a solution because she was so determined and was not giving up - just like Mike.  It made me smile, and cry a little all over again at the love and pride I had on "bike" day and on Saturday too!”

An invincible determination can accomplish anything and in that, lies the great distinction between great men and little men. Thomas Fuller…and in Madeline’s case; great young women! 

When I woke up this morning, I laid in bed and prayed for Mike’s family. I prayed that the Lord would comfort them and help them not to worry about their little brother too much. When I got up, this is the message I read from Mike’s sister Aileen: (Regarding Mike’s last blog “R” Rated) "It made me cry and Melanie was here and I think she felt bad for me. I think it is selfish for me to think of how I feel when I see my brother handling himself so strong and never giving up or giving in.  It's sad for us to see him suffer anything, but here is such a message in his posting that it took me to really think deep about what it means to him to continue the biking in spite of the dangers. He doesn't want to give his whole being to ALS and continuing biking shows how he is continuing with his life as he always has, with strength, endurance and a whole lot of faith...Regarding the blog, I don't want him to hold back anything he wants to say. It is part of his story. I was wrong and yes it is hard for us, but how can I measure that compared to what is hard for HIM? How selfish of me. If he wants to bike, he should keep doing it and when he is ready to stop, it will be his choice not mine or anyone else’s."  
Aileen’s message to Mike: “Hey Mike: I just want you to know that every day you amaze me with your strength of person and humour at life and its hurdles. You have taught me so much - inspiration yes, but more about growing stronger in spirit in the face of barriers. ...Why am I upset at this shot? Why should I be? It is again you heading face on (literally) your limitations and not letting it rob you of your pleasures. I love that you can laugh at this, the pictures are priceless, and they show who you are and NOBODY would change that in you. I just hate that you got hurt.”

                                                       Me and Mike on the dike today....

and we went all the Harris Road (19Ks)
see Living on a Prayer blog

                                            Alouette River and Golden Ears Mountains backdrop

Monday, 17 October 2011

My "R" Rated Blog - by Mike Sands

The reason this blog is ‘R’ rated, is because some of the pictures are very graphic and may be disturbing to some readers.  
I went for a bike ride on the dike a couple of days ago, and had an accident.  A dog jumped in front of my bike and I went for a spill.  When I hit the dog, he hardly moved in his tracks as I wasn’t going very fast.  Unfortunately for me, my co-ordination and reflexes are not as quick as they were before getting ALS.  I have difficulty catching myself, so my knees and face took the brunt of the fall.  My sister had just bought me an expensive helmet the week before, after she heard of my previous accident (see ‘Look away, I’m hideous’ blog).  I didn’t have my new helmet on because I thought I wouldn’t need it on the dike where there are no cars.  After falling, I had to pedal about seven miles back home.  All I could think of was how much my sister was going to give me heck for not wearing my helmet.
After I showered off the blood, I noticed my nose was broken.  I went to my doctor and he sent me to the hospital where he would meet me later to set my nose.  He said he would stuff cocaine up my nose (cocaine is the drug of choice for nasal work as it dulls the pain and is a vasodilator) and set it. While in the emergency room at the hospital with my wife and sister-in-law, Elanna, we had a good laugh over the days events.  I decided I would write a story for Nadine's blog.  We went over different titles for the blog and these are a few titles we came up with: Look Away, I'm Hideous Part 2Scarface 2, Nose to the Grindstone and Dog Day Afternoon.
I got back on my bike the next day.  I must admit, these past biking accidents have made me more tentative, but biking is the only means of exercise at my disposal (I can’t run or lift weights anymore) so I can’t give it up for fear of accidents.  To my sister Pat; I will wear my helmet all the time, even on the dike.

before...and after clean up

Possible Titles for my Blog:

                                                                         Face Plant 

                                               Tareyton. We'd Rather Fight, Than Switch.

                                                     Don't Get Your Nose Out of Joint

                                                                 Nose to the Grindstone

                                                               Eric Clapton singing:
                                               "She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie...

                                                                   Dog Gone It!

Friday, 14 October 2011

Trust...Easy as Pie? by Erin Sands

The following post is written by our oldest daugher Erin, who lives in Point Grey where she attends the University of British Columbia. 

Last Saturday, I decided it was time for a haircut. Getting your haircut involves a lot of trust; you are giving someone else the power to make you look like Denise Richards… or Richard Simmons.

So I walked up and down my block and realized I had seven hair salons to choose from! Apparently, hair grows really fast out here in Point Grey. Everything from high end salons to Great Clips, but then I came across “Varsity Barbers” with a cute little Asian couple standing at the window with big grins on their faces. The place was empty, not usually a good sign when it comes to hair salons and there was a big “12.99 for students” sign in the window. My Dad always told me, “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys” but I figured they could probably use the business and decided to put my trust in the Varsity Barbers.

“Hewo, hewo! Wewcome!” They both said excitedly as I walked in. They told me that business hadn’t exactly been booming lately and that I was the first customer of the day. I told the barber that all I wanted was a little trim and the woman started cutting away. “You like the hair in the fwont?” she said. I was a little puzzled and said nervously “you mean bangs?” She nodded “ya ya, hair in the fwont” and pointed at my forehead. I yelled out a very nervous “NO! Just a trim please!” Then she made me stand up and was cutting random pieces off the back. I asked if I could get a mirror and see. Apprehensively, she replied “uh it not done yet” then yelled something in Chinese to her husband and he ran over. Now, I was starting to sweat. I caught a glimpse of it in a back mirror and it looked a bit like a wave pool. I probably would have been better off getting my 2 year old niece Leah to give me a trim.

I just closed my eyes and continued to trust in this little Asian woman. “Awl done!” She said proudly, and I hesitantly opened my eyes. Sure enough it didn’t look half bad, actually it looked quite good! I went to pay with my debit card and the couple looked at me and said “debit machine too much money, just cash” and I noticed that all they had was a little till that looked like it came from 1930. I told them all I had was a debit card and they said “you go get money and just come back.” I was shocked that they trusted me to leave and come back. I told them I probably wouldn’t be able to come back with cash until Monday and they said “whenever you can, thank you, thank you fo picking us!”

On Thanksgiving I returned with the money and once again the two of them were sitting in the window with big grins on their faces and no customers. I came back a little later with a pumpkin pie because I knew that they probably would not be doing anything special for thanksgiving but waiting for their next $12.99 customer to come in. I also wanted to show them my gratitude for trusting me. There was a lot of trust going around that weekend.

Since my Dad was diagnosed with ALS, I have had to do a lot of trusting. I have had to trust the doctors who are taking care of him, the scientists who are looking for treatments and cures, and I have to trust that God will give him strength and courage to make it through the challenges he faces every day.

I am trusting that his life will be like the barber’s chair. The quality of it may be snipped and clipped with a big pair of scissors. It can be a bit of a scary and uncertain ride, but the end result, if this ALS beats him, will be an amazing, stylish new ‘do’ up in heaven.    

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Larger Melons

I didn’t sleep well last night, plus I gave it all I had in my spin class this morning even though I have a cold, so today after lunch, I had to lie down for a few minutes. Just as I put my head on the pile of unfolded laundry on the couch, I heard Mike say, “Well, I’m ready for a bike ride now.”  What? I am way too tired, I thought, plus it’s too cold and it looks like it could rain. Do I tell him I don’t want to go? Do I tell him I can’t go? Do I pretend I’ve been bit by a spider and I can’t move my body? I managed to drag myself off the couch and put on a second pair of socks, a heavy sweater and a long jacket. I guess I didn’t look that enthusiastic because when we left, Mike said “I don’t think you really want to go.”
Mike continues to inspire me every day. He never complains, he never whines, it’s never “woe is me.” I, however whined for the first ten minutes of our bike ride, but eventually I warmed up and decide to enjoy every minute with my beloved. And just like he said, I didn’t need the long jacket. We talked and joked and every five minutes we had to stop so I could put on or take off another layer of clothing. During our quiet times, these were some of my thoughts: I should have called my last blog ‘Larger Melons’ instead of ‘Dream Team’, because ‘Larger Melons’ is a much catcher title and would probably entice more readers and I thought how the blog before that (Happy Giving) was perhaps too long and it wasn’t about Mike, so no one will really want to read it. I thought how I need to get a case for Mike’s new knife (see Dream Team) because I threw the knife in my bag when we went to Organic World for lunch today and when the waitress showed up with Mike’s steak sandwich I reached in to get the knife and almost lost a finger. I thought about all the new movies that showed up in a package today from Mike’s sister Pat…I was particularly excited about the Get Smart season 2 DVD. I thought how Mike is in such good shape even though he has a terminal illness and how his positive attitude and strong faith will contribute to his quality of life and how he very well could out live most of us. I thought about many things and as we pulled up in the drive way, I thought how I wouldn’t have wanted to miss that bike ride with Mike for the world.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Dream Team

Mike had an appointment last week with the ALS Team at GF Strong in Vancouver. Instead of seeing the neurologist this time, he saw the occupational therapist, speech therapist, dietition, the ALS nurse, social worker and gadget lady (another occupational therapist specialising in helping ALS patient find ways of maintaining independence). Mike was excited to purchase a knife from the gadget lady. It’s a long, sharp knife you hold like a saw. The first time he used it, he said, “It works really well, and I only cut myself three times.” My sister, Elanna came with us to the appointment. She has come to all three appointments at GF Strong since Mike was diagnosed. She provides emotional support, she asks questions we forget to ask, and she always brings a bag of snacks. We call ourselves the ‘Dream Team’…we are dreaming that we will show up and the doctor will inform us that he has made a terrible mistake and says, “Sorry for the inconvenience, Mr. Sands, but we have made a mistake and you don’t have ALS after all. You are free to go now.” We can dream, right?
It was a three and a half hour appointment this time. The ALS Team asked every question in the book. “How is your swallowing?” “How are you managing in the shower?” “How is your breathing?” “How are you managing going up and down the stairs?” “What is the layout of your house?” “Are you eating softer foods?” “Are you choking, are you sleeping, are you coughing, are you able to dress yourself, can you brush your teeth, can you balance on one leg, can you stand on your head and juggle fire? It was emotionally draining because answering all the questions was a reminder of all the changes in our lives caused by the illness. Even though we were exhausted, Mike and Elanna still had enough energy on the way out to act out a scene from a horror movie with Mike’s new knife.
The changes can sometimes be overwhelming, but the things that stay the same, bring comfort and joy. Mike is still the same on the inside and that will never change. Last night I listened to Mike give Madison a lesson on the Treaty of Versailles with all the knowledge and passion he has for history and although he speaks slower and words are slurred, he still speaks with the eloquence and conviction he always has. This morning, while at the fruit and vegetable market, Mike made the same old jokes about squeezing my ‘melons’ and holding my ‘melons’ and maybe looking for larger ‘melons’ and so forth. This afternoon, when Madison and I came home, Mike opened the door and like a kid, was happy to show off the dirt that covered him from head to toe. He had gone for a 13k bike ride in the rain and was wearing his badge of accomplishment.
Courage is the power to let go of the familiar. – Raymond Lindquist

Monday, 10 October 2011

Happy Giving

Today, while driving home from Point Grey after dropping our daughter, Erin off at home, I contemplated the events of this Thanksgiving weekend. It was raining and by the way people were driving, you would think it never rains. We live in rains more than it doesn’t. I explained to Mike and Madison more than once, that I could understand people wanting to slow down in the rain, but PLEASE get out of the fast lane! In between my impatient outbursts, I was giving thanks…really.
We had a delicious salmon dinner yesterday instead of the traditional turkey spread. My parents had us all over and served the fish my dad caught while they were in Port Hardy last month. My sister, Elanna and her husband Peter and their children, Michaela and Luke were there and all of us. Well, except Madison, who got a call last minute from a friend to play hockey, so she came later. Mike left early to watch some of the game and when my dad found out that Mike had left for the game, he quickly gobbled the last couple of bites on his plate and flew out the door with Nathan to catch the last period. They all came back just in time for warm apple pie and ice cream.
Last year I was in the Dominican Republic on Thanksgiving. I was missing my family, but was experiencing a little more gratitude than usual. I was there for two weeks with a group of people in the construction business and in the business of giving, including my cousin Bryan and his friend, Marty. My parents decided I should go. Through their organization, Project Wellness (see my post News Worthy), they had already donated the funds for two homes in a village and were sponsoring two more homes in a new village. So, I was sent to help with the construction of these houses and to visit those recipients of the houses Project Wellness provided. We were putting tin roofs on brick houses. I had been on a few “Project Wellness” trips before (some with Mike and my kids). One to Nigeria and three to Malawi, Africa and, a trip years ago to Brazil. But none were like this one. The others were more geared toward visiting orphans and hospital visitation, delivering medication, soccer balls and jerseys etc. This trip was about physical work…blood, sweat and tears. Okay, not so much blood and tears, but a lot of sweat…and some tears. 
Our young and fearless leader, Josh had a birthday while we were there. I didn’t know Josh before the trip, but only a few days in, I felt like I had known him for a long time; he became a friend right away…not just with me, but with everyone. While speaking with him at dinner the night before his birthday, I heard that quiet voice inside me say, “Give him your book.” I continued my conversation with Josh while I had a little talk with the Spirit inside me. The book He was referring to was my favourite copy of My Utmost for His Highest, by Oswald of my dearest possessions. My dad gave me my first copy that stayed in a drawer for a couple of years before I took it out and discovered the treasure in its pages. It is now squished in between other books in my book case. The copy I took with me to the Dominican, that the Lord was now asking me to give away, was a revised edition I had been reading for years. It was well worn, like a favourite sweat shirt you put on when you want to get comfortable. It was marked with pen, pencil, highlighter, even eyeliner in all the right places. Pages were torn, folded, and falling out. I don’t have many dear possessions. I have a lot of possessions, I guess, but not many I hold dear. I have a ceramic ornament that my mom made me when I was young…a little blonde girl holding a cat. I don’t have it displayed in my living room or anything, but I know where it is and it’s very valuable to me. Other valuable possessions consist of homemade cards from my kids and some gifts from friends and family, but nothing much of monetary value.
Giving my book to Josh was very difficult. It was easier for me to give two weeks of my time, effort and sweat and tears in the construction of those homes than it was to give my tattered and torn, soft covered book (retail value, $5.99). Just before I presented it to the birthday boy, I opened it up to take my last look, and this is what Oswald said: “Wherever God sends us, He will guard our lives. Our personal property and possessions are to be a matter of indifference to us, and our hold on these things should be very loose.”
 1. After a day of working on a hot tin roof. 2. A Project Wellness home. 3. A visit to an orphanage for disabled children. 4. Brian giving his new found friend a shoulder ride.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

One and a Half Handicapped

It was our niece Heather’s birthday on Monday. Heather lives in Langley with her hubby, Frank and their beautiful 5 year old daughter, Kaelyn, who has happily started kindergarten this fall. Heather had an appointment in White Rock and not only was it her birthday, but the forecast called for rain and because Heather has Cerebral Palsy, she was going to have to take her wheelchair on a connect-the-dots bus trip to her appointment, so we offered to take her. She kindly accepted our offer and we were happy to help. We gave ourselves about 45 minutes to get there, but it only took fifteen. It would have taken Heather about an hour and a half by busses. Most of the parking in front of the building was handicapped parking. Mike told me to park in one of the handicapped spots. He and Heather both agreed that even though I don’t have a permit to park in a handicapped spot, it was more than okay because after all, they were ‘one and a half handicapped ‘(see Mike’s post Half Handicapped). Instead, I dropped them off and parked somewhere else (I had a flashback of the Seinfeld episode where George parks in a handicap spot and when he, Elaine, Kramer, and Jerry return to the car, it’s destroyed by a mob of angry people.) I’m glad I parked somewhere else, because when we came out after the appointment, all the handicapped spots were taken. I’m not handicapped, thankfully, and didn’t feel right about parking in the handicapped spot without a permit. It was easy for me to go get the car and come back for my one and a half handicapped passengers.
Mike is doing well adjusting to his half handicap…but here is a question: Is it more difficult for a person to become handicapped later on in life, or to be born that way and never know the difference?  
We dropped Heather off with time for her to go pick Kaelyn up from school. Later, Mike and I went back to Langley with our son Nathan and his daughter Leah to take Heather, Frank and Kaelyn out for birthday dinner. Frank is a bike expert…sales, service etc. He took Mike’s bike last week to make a few adjustments. Well, when we showed up for dinner, Frank had Mike’s bike ready for him. He switched the brakes, so now the back brake is on the left handlebar – Mike’s strong side. He also put on new tires, tuned it up and presented Mike with a brand new helmet. Wow, gifts for Mike on Heather’s birthday. We are pretty sure Heather’s mom, Pat (Mike’s sister – see Big Sisters) who lives in Toronto, made sure a helmet was included in the return of the bike.
Today, while Mike and I were out running a few errands, I paid extra attention to how people responded to Mike’s half handicap. A woman at the doctor’s office seemed a little annoyed when she had to move over coming up the stairs for Mike who needed the left hand railing while going down the stairs. Someone at the drug store seemed a little impatient because we were walking slowly and they obviously had to get somewhere fast. At the grocery store, Mike likes to push the buggy because it helps him with his balance, but others who had better things to do seemed a little antsy when Mike couldn’t steer his buggy out of their way fast enough. Mike thinks he should wear a hat that says, “I have ALS” so people will perhaps be more sympathetic. In Heather’s case, it’s a little more obvious, but I’m guessing she experiences the same responses.
As I observe my one and a half handicapped passengers, I am humbled and realize that I need to be more patient with others less capable and more thankful for my capabilities.
                                            Heather the birthday girl, Kaelyn and Frank


Leah and Kaelyn waiting to be seated at Red Robin

Mike's new helmet

Monday, 3 October 2011

Uncle Mike's The Greatest

Our bus driver, Eugene was a nice enough guy, but he drove really slow which was annoying and he kept pumping the brakes going downhill, which made me feel like I was going to lose my breakfast. Mike pointed out that Eugene looked like Bowling for Columbine’s Michael Moore and the coach pointed out the he talked way too much and Leighton pointed out the window and said, “Hey look, we are actually passing someone”. I looked out and saw the two cyclists he was referring to, pedaling up the hill beside us. Leighton is one of the hockey dads and the equipment manager, who provides a little comic relief.
Well, its hockey season and we are on the road again. We left for Nelson on Friday at 5:00am and after three wins, zero losses, and a few bumps and bruises (no major injuries), we headed back Sunday morning. It’s our daughter Madison’s last year with the Phantoms, a major midget hockey team that plays in the BC female hockey league. Mike was glad he could join us and plans to come on all the road trips this year. In past seasons, he didn’t make many trips because he had to work. Mike was happy when he heard our first trip was to Nelson, because he could make a bunch of ‘half Nelson’ jokes. He told my parents we would give them a call from ‘half Nelson`. He suggested a few times that we should stop for lunch at ‘half Nelson’ and so on.
Mike is kind of famous around our house for the ‘half Nelson’ (arm twist behind the back). He is also famous for the vulcan (the tight squeeze of his hand on the collarbone), the back ache (knuckle between the shoulder blades), the toe crack (just like it sounds) and the ‘Terry’ (an ear pull). Mike adopted the ‘Terry’ one day when he saw a mother pulling her child by the ear saying, “Terry, it`s your birthday, get back to the party”. Mike would often put one of the kids, or myself in one of the above vice grips and tell us to say “Uncle Mike’s the greatest”. He wouldn’t let go until those words were spoken. The kids would resist and take the torture for a while, not wanting to give their dad the satisfaction of hearing ‘Uncle Mike's the greatest’. I would simply say, “I don’t have an Uncle Mike, but sure, I’ll say it”, and I would oblige.
Okay, so back to Nelson, the beautiful town in the Kootenays of British Columbia. The last time we were there was in March, the weekend before Mike was diagnosed. We were a little anxious because we knew, after doing some of our own research that Mike might have ALS. Regardless, we had a great time that weekend, watching the last league hockey games of the season and socializing at Findlay’s Pub with the other parents and coaches. We also took a few walks in the snow and prayed about the neurologist visit.
After Mike was diagnosed, we always said that Mike has been diagnosed with ALS. It’s only recently, we say he has ALS. But that shouldn’t fool anyone, Mike still believes that he could have been misdiagnosed, because anything is possible. He is even more convinced that he could be miraculously healed or that a cure could come at any time…because anything is possible with God.
In a little convenient store in ‘Half Nelson’, some small town about half way there, I bought a rock with the words, “All things are possible with God”. I already have the same rock on my bed side table, so I think I will send this one to Mike’s mom and dad.
                                             Michael Moore look alike, Eugene and Mike

The Winning Team

Saturday, 1 October 2011

You're The Best, Man

Mike was honoured when our son, Nathan asked him to be his best man. I already knew for quite some time that Nathan was going to ask him, because Katrina, Nathan's beautiful bride to be let me in on it. Best man pretty much sums it up. Best is best. There is good, then better, than best. That's it, there is no higher calling. You just can't do better than "best". Okay, I’ll shut up now and tell you a little about this best man and why his son and two daughters might think he is the best. First of all, he is the greatest trick or treater on the planet. I can still see their little faces watching in awe as Mike shared his secrets to collecting at least twice as much candy as the other kids. They were also amazed how he could throw the insides of the pumpkin in a pan and put it in the oven and after a half hour or so, pull out a beautiful pie. He got away with the trick for a year or two until they clued in that Mike quickly made the switch when he sent them off to play…Mike still denies it. Mike played with his children at the park, and never let the ice cream guy go by without buying three cool treats, or more depending on how many friends were in tow. Sometimes he set up his own ice cream stand and with the help of our children, he would sell ice cream cones to the neighbour kids for one cent a cone…his motto was "we will not be under sold." It wasn't unusual to have ten to twenty kids lined up to place their order at our kitchen window and Jared, the boy from across the street with a dime, thinking he was going to score ten cones, but little did Jared know, Mike wasn't in it for the money. Mike was never too busy to tell a story, solve a problem or patch up a wound. Road hockey, a little baseball and kicking the soccer ball around was part of their regular routine. Mike did their, I mean helped them with their homework and skipped them (and friends) out of school to see their favourite movies. Even with mike's hectic work schedule, he managed to make most of the games, track and cross country meets, public speaking competitions, plays and school band concerts. Roller coasters and roller blades, water slides and water fights…Mike was like a big friend. Mike is still a friend, just not as big now that they are almost all grown up.
Even though Mike never followed the Dr. Spock principals of child rearing, his son and daughters think his methods were best. And to prove it, this past August, proud as punch, Mike stood beside his boy and was the best 'best man' a son could have.
Proverbs 22:6 says: Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not depart from it.
                                     Nathan the groom, Leah the flower girl, Mike the best man
                                                   Nathan, Corey, Adam, Mike and Curtis
                                                                 Katrina and Nathan