Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Keep Calm and Pray

Among the many wonderful gifts I received for Christmas this year was a book mark that says: 'Keep Calm and Pray'. It comes from the famous quote: Keep Calm and Carry On, which was a poster produced by the British Government in 1939 during the beginning of the Second World War, intended to raise the morale of the British public in the event of invasion.

'Keep Calm and Pray' was a very timely message as I was nervously getting ready for the Christmas hockey tournament in Calgary. Mike had decided a while ago that he would sit this one out and enjoy the time at home with Erin and Nathan. Even though Erin was going to be home from UBC and my mom and sister said they would come by with meals etc and Nathan said he would be coming everyday, I was so nervous to leave Mike.

Mike and I have systems; we have developed routines. I know what he needs without him necessarily having to say, plus he feels comfortable asking me to do certain things for him that he might not feel comfortable asking someone else to do. Needing his pants pulled up a bit, he says, "Give the right side of my pants a yank, would ya?" When Mike gets up to go to the washroom in the night, I am ready to put the covers back on him when he returns, and place his pillows back where he likes them - one he holds in his arms and one between his knees and I fluff the one he lays his head on.

Although I enjoyed the most wonderful Christmas ever, I was a bit of a nervous wreck the week leading up to Boxing Day - yesterday, the day Madison and I left for Calgary. But then I opened up that book mark with those words "Keep Calm and Pray". I felt it was a message just for me. Even though I had been praying, I needed to stay calm and trust that Mike would be okay.

I love the city of Calgary in the winter. It's white, it's peaceful and it's calm. Calm...just like me now. We still have four more nights to go, but I'm confident all will be well with Mike, especially after the message he sent me last night. This is the message he sent me:

calendar of events today;
1) went to swiss chalet with nathan and erin
2)found a dime in shoppers drug mart
3)got a back massage from erin while watching judge judy
4)no falls

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


My friend Audrey gave me a book a little while ago called The Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha. The description on the back cover says: The Book of Awesome reminds us that the best things in life are free. Based on the award-winning blog 1000awesomethings.com, it’s a high five for humanity and a big celebration of life’s little moments. Sometimes it’s easy to forget the things that make us smile. Sometimes it’s tempting to feel that the world is falling apart, but awesome things are all around us: Popping bubble wrap, the smell of rain on a hot sidewalk, hitting a bunch of green lights in a row…
Here is one that I particularly like: "That one square in the waffle that’s the most loaded with butter and syrup – Oh, you know the one. It’s full to the brim with a melty smear of butter and drenched in a puddle of thick syrup. Good move saving it for last. AWESOME!"
Merriam-Webster defines awesome as: Inspiring awe, terrific, extraordinary. I don’t know if I would go as far as to say that melty butter in a puddle of syrup inspires awe or is extraordinary, but perhaps it’s pretty terrific.
Here are a few of my own “Awesomes” from the past week:
When you come home and find a package of baking on your doorstep. Or open your mail and find a gift certificate or a few bucks tucked inside a Christmas card…and other gifts. The generosity and thoughtfulness of others… AWESOME!
When your best friend from Vernon calls to tell you that the Christmas gifts she dropped off the last time she was in town was only part of the present. Four hours of house cleaning service is the other part…AWESOME!
When your 10 year old nephew tells his mom something very wise and wonderful when she is helping him put his socks on because he broke his finger in a soccer match… “This must be how Uncle Mike feels (not being about to put his socks on). I pray for him every day, but this experience makes me want to pray for him more.” AWESOME!
When you go Christmas shopping and everyone you make a purchase from says “Merry Christmas”, not “Happy Holidays”, or “Season’s Greetings.” AWESOME!
When you open the Province newspaper and see your husband has submitted a letter to the editor. Smart, articulate, short and to the point. He may be different on the outside, but just the same…even wittier and wiser, on the inside. AWESOME!
Fresh fallen snow on the Golden Ears mountains on a sunny winter’s day…still takes my breath away. AWESOME!
The scene in Charlie Brown’s Christmas where Charlie Brown finds himself depressed at Christmas time, searching for the true meaning of the holiday amidst the glitz and commercialism of the modern age. He finds his answer in the passage below:
"And there were in the same country shepherds, abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them! And they were so afraid ... And the angel said unto them, "Fear not! For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all my people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ, the Lord."
"And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." And suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the Heavenly Host praising God, and saying, "Glory to God in the Highest, and on Earth peace, and good will toward men."
"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown." - Linus Van Pelt - AWESOME!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Bureaucratic Red Tape - By Mike Sands

     Once upon a time, the Government had a vast scrapyard in the middle of the desert.  A thought occurred to them that someone might steal from it at night, so they decided to hire a night watchman.  Then they thought, ‘how does the night watchman know how to do his job without instruction?’  So they created a planning committee, one person to write the instructions and one person to do time studies.  Then they thought, ‘how do we know the night watchman is doing the tasks correctly?’  So they hired a quality control department and hired 2 people; one to do the studies and one to write the reports.  They then realized these employees needed to be paid so they created a timekeeper and a payroll officer.  But then they thought, ‘who will be accountable for all these people?’ So they created an administrative section with an administrative officer, an assistant administrative officer, and a legal secretary.  After a year of having this command service, they realized they were$18,000 over budget, and decided they needed to make cutbacks.  So they fired the night watchman.  Government bureaucracies represent 48% of our Gross Domestic Product, and have been under increasing pressure to be more cost efficient. They are perceived to be less efficient than their private sector counterparts because they are not profit orientated and have exceptional job guarantee packages. Stories of people being on hold for extended times, red tape and run-arounds are common.  The biggest complaint from citizens is all the paperwork that these bureaucracies force you to fill out in order to obtain simple services such as a passport, licence or title transfers.  It’s almost as though the bureaucrats have taken a course on making the paperwork so long and arduous so that they alone are able to comprehend it.  A good example is the following statistic on the amount of words used:  Pythagorean theorem—24 words, The Lord’s prayer—28 words, Archimedes principal—67 words, The ten commandments—167 words, Gettysburg address—286, declaration of independence—1300 words, Constitution of United States  with all 27 amendments—7818 words, U.S. regulations on the sale of cabbage—26,911 words.
     I recently had a run in with the bureaucratic system.  I was sent forms to fill out for long term disability.  I filled out all relevant sections, leaving the ‘return to work’ section that is reserved more for people who say have a sore back and will likely have a future return date.  The ‘bureaucrat’ called me and said I forgot to fill out the above section.  I explained that this section was not relevant to my situation.  End of conversation.  A few days later, I get a call from my union stating they wanted to release me because I didn’t fill out the paperwork (a clever ploy to get rid of me to avoid paying my premiums as I’m a liability at this time).  No problem, I said to myself, I’ll fill out the paperwork and send it in:  SECTION 1: Expected date of return:  ‘TOMORROW’.  SECTION 2:  alternative jobs you could do if unable to do current job:  MOVIE CRITIC.  Section 3:  list dependants: THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT.  Section 4:  Check this box if you are blind (this one wasn’t on there, but it wouldn’t have surprised me!).  The only requirement was FILLING IT OUT and they got what they wanted.  It’s too bad if they can’t take a joke.

Monday, 12 December 2011

He Hold Us Up

‘Worry’ should be a four letter word…it is so nasty. I am not normally much of a worrier, but I must admit, lately worry has become an annoying pest…more like a monster that just won’t leave me alone. I wake up and there it is. I get up and it follows me to the bathroom. I look in the mirror and its staring me in the face. All day long, day after day…following me, taunting me, nagging me…
Worry, defined by Webster is: a troubled state of mind, anxiety, uneasiness distress.  It’s horrible! Worry steals your joy, it messes with your peace, it ties up your stomach, it dictates your thoughts, it interferes with your sleep…it’s an enemy to the human race!
John 14:27 says; Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Sometimes that is easier said than done. So, how do you prevent your heart from being troubled and afraid? I’m pretty sure you have to draw nearer to the Lord and put all your trust in Him. Oswald Chambers says: You don’t know what you are going to do. The only thing you know is that God knows what He is doing. Continually examine your attitude toward God to see if you are willing to “go out” in every area of your life trusting in God entirely…Believe God is always the God you know Him to be when you are nearest to Him. Then think how unnecessary and disrespectful worry is! Let the attitude of your life be a continual willingness to “go out” in dependence upon God, and your life will have a sacred and inexpressible charm about it that is very satisfying to Him.
We were in Regina this past week for a hockey tournament. We started our journey home last night at about 5pm (3pm our time) and after a number of delays, we made our connection in Calgary. Because it was a very long day and a very busy and exciting trip, Mike wasn’t in his finest form at 11:30pm when we finally landed in Calgary. He stiffened up and was unable to walk from gate 40 (where we landed) to gate 43 (where we had to catch the next flight). The West Jet people noticed Mike struggling and called for some transportation. When we got to gate 43, another kind West Jet employee had a wheel chair ready for Mike to make the journey to the plane a little easier. We were the last to board and because the front seats were empty, we were told to take those seats if we didn’t want to go to our seats in row 19. We sat down in the front row and right away Mike commented on the extra leg room and all I could think about was my new seat next to the window. I am not crazy about flying and for that reason, I always ask for an aisle seat, plus I get up to go to the washroom a lot. I think to myself I can probably hold it for the short jaunt from Calgary to Abbotsford, but what about this window. I closed the shade and tried to distract myself by watching TV, pausing to say a little prayer and picture God holding the plane up in the sky with His hand. Mike fell asleep about ten minutes into the flight and about a half hour in, I became a little curious and lifted the shade on the window. When I lifted the shade, I lost my breath. The snow-capped Rocky Mountains were brilliant. The million stars in the sky were captivating and the slightly less than full moon was stunning. I thought to myself how my worry and fear almost kept me from experiencing this amazing view. Feeling foolish and somewhat convicted, I had a few words with the Creator of it all. I had to apologize as He reminded me that even though I am so small, he is big! And he holds us up with His hand.

                           The view on our way to Regina...mountains peeking through the clouds

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Tooth and Nail

My dear husband is hanging on to his independence tooth and nail. He reminded me the other day that he can still do the banking. I wanted to help him, but he insisted I wait for him in the car. I respected his wishes and watched him through the window slowly make his way into the bank. After some time, I was just about ready to go in to see if he needed any help, but then he came out...with a smile on his face that said, “Banking accomplished.”
When I see him struggle with something, I jump in to help, only to hear him say, “I can do it.” There are certain things he graciously allows me to do for him now, simply because his 'half handicap' limits him. For instance, it’s difficult for him to take off his sweaty socks after a bike ride, so I peel them off (yuck…I'm talking soaked), but I don’t mind…same with the sweaty t-shirts. Sometimes I help him on with his pants, sweat shirts and his jacket. I am constantly asking if he needs a snack, a drink, a sweater, a massage. I ask if he is too warm, too cold, tired, hungry etc. I’m sure I bug him sometimes, but I can’t stand the thought of him not being comfortable and not asking for help if he needs it.
I know it bothers him that he can’t help bring in the groceries or change the 18L water jug on the water cooler any more. He used to like washing the kitchen floor, knowing I loved to come home to see it glisten. The things most people complain about, like washing dishes, Mike misses being able to do. He would give anything to do a load of laundry, or change a light bulb, or clip his finger nails, but those things are things of the past. Mike is a fighter though, and he will fight to maintain the little independence he has left…and the one liners are still coming on strong.
I continue to watch Mike in amazement; his bravery, his humility, his patience and his determination. Sometimes, I just stare at him. I examine the toll ALS has taken on his body, but his face is the same to me: the variety of wonderful expressions, the warmth of his smile and the sparkle in his eyes.
There is something else that hasn’t change as well; his amazing attitude! Still not one complaint…not one!
                        Mike putting a shine on the kitchen floor a couple of months ago...thanks Mike!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

It Takes a Village - Part 2

I received an email from my friend Celeste a couple of weeks ago. She wanted to remind me that she is praying for us and that if we needed any help, she would like me to call on her for anything. She ended her email with Proverbs 17:17, which says: A friend is always loyal, and a brother (sister) is born to help in time of need.
Shortly after I read Celeste’s email, our friend Adele showed up at our house with some homemade soup, chicken curry and a beautiful fall arrangement from her garden. A few days before that, our friend Michelle came and gave us a massage chair and two containers of homemade soup. A card came in the mail the other day for Mike from a woman we know from a church we attended years ago. She put a $20 cheque inside and said she hoped it would help. Not long before that it was a $200 cheque from an aunt.
Since Mike’s diagnosis, friends and family have blessed us with cards, gifts, books, fruit baskets, flowers, food (homemade pie), messages of encouragement and more…parents, siblings, friends and people we don’t even know. Shortly after Mike’s diagnosis, my sister, Elanna came over and gave me $40 from a friend of hers. The friend told her to tell us we were on her mind and she wanted to help. What can we say? We are humbled and thankful.
In the summer, our friends Audrey and Karen hosted a BBQ in our honour. They invited the local hockey community and some other friends. Everyone brought food, there were games for the kids and beautiful gift baskets that Adele put together and raffled off. We received cards of encouragement and donations that went to Mike’s ‘half handicap’ fund. Two of the young hockey players made bracelets and a sign that said ‘Bracelets by Donation for ALS’. I chose one that said ‘hope’.
A few days before the BBQ, a friend and fellow hockey mom, Shonia pulled me aside after hockey practice and told me that every year, she and her husband, Steve donate some money from their family business toward the teams their daughter’s play on (hockey and soccer)…a type of sponsorship. She said that this year, instead of giving it to the team, they took the money and paid Madison’s first instalment for the season. I thanked her, and told her it wasn’t necessary because family had already given us money for the whole season and she said, “Well, it’s paid for.”
Mike and I have always believed that the Lord would provide for us…and He always has. But being very capable and hardworking, Mike who worked as a nurse and had two good jobs for a long time, would just pick up another shift if we had extra expenses. As of March 7th, there have been no extra shifts, there haven’t been any shifts at all, so we have had to put our money where our mouth is and really trust the Lord….and He continues to supply faithfully.
We would like to thank our friends and family and those we don’t even know who have come along side us and have helped us. A special thanks to our parents who have blessed us beyond measure. We appreciate their support and enduring love. We have been able to lean on them and we draw strength and courage knowing they are right there…they’ve got our backs.
God bless you all!

                                 Mike getting a massage on his new massage chair from Michelle