2015: Here’s what I really think of you

January 1, 2016
bearfacedcow

I won’t sugarcoat any of this: The year 2015 sucked.

I never had a year filled with so much suffering in it than 2015. If anything, it felt like 2015 put a noose around my neck and tied it to the bumper of a pickup truck dragging me 80Km/h over a road of broken glass, only to crash into a lake of iodine. And the worst of it is that I’m still feeling the pain after it all has happened, just waiting for the scars to take over so I can heal from all of this.

If anything, it’s hard to ever remember what happened January and February because it got eclipsed by March by tearing the quadricep completely off of my knee, requiring emergency surgery followed by 10 weeks of not being able to walk. I was imprisoned by a 7” drop floor living room. I had to use my arms as legs at times. I felt useless and a burden. Yeah, I will admit that I am walking better now than I have for the last 10 years, but it wasn’t a picnic getting to this spot. Even to this day, I am practicing my physiotherapy and I have been using my exercise equipment as a healing device. I’m probably one of the only few people that do not use it as a fancy coat hanger. But it’s because of the determination that I am not going to let myself be beaten by this injury. In fact, I would use this injury to make me that much better than I was before. But, getting to this point involved a lot of physical pain. The battle was between my determination and the pain that would attempt to stand in my way.

Not to mention that I was burden to Joelle. She had to wait on me hand and foot and do things for me that I never would have asked. I felt totally useless as I was unable to do things for myself in those 10 weeks. And yet, she was there for me. My injury was just as hard on her as it was on me.

And then when we think we’re just about out of the woods, hoping to carry on with our lives, Joelle is diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian Cancer. I felt like I was emotionally knocked down on my ass. It’s was like the nightmare that I was hoping to wake up from, but it seemed every day I woke up into the same nightmare. Watching her suffer with chemotherapy has been nothing short of emotionally draining, especially when I am trying to be strong for her, only to wind up losing it by the end of the day. Emotionally enduring her surgery wasn’t any easier as there were so many rocky roads up to today. I often reached times that I couldn’t contain myself and had to just get into the car to escape. And even watching her endure a few more rounds of chemo is draining. I have too many “why” questions and I have had so much anger and hurt this year over it because the answers feel so elusive to me.

So, as I stand here with just a little over a couple of hours before new year, let me tell you 2015 what I really think of you. 2015, I hope that you rot in hell. I hope that every memory of you burns up like tissue paper in a bonfire, so that nothing is left of you but ashes and a scar. You can’t leave my life quick enough and knowing that you will move further and further away in my rear-view mirror so that nothing will be left but a dot is the only comfort I have in the last couple of hours. As much as Joelle and I would love to celebrate your going away and slam the door on your ass, Joelle is unable to stay up and watch you leave due to the fact that chemo has drained all of the energy from her. That does not give me any cause for celebration. Perhaps, the three most painful words of 2016 will be “Happy New Year” as I watch you take your last steps. However, I was stand guard here making sure that you go and take all of your pain with you. The only gift I hope 2016 brings me is the ability to forget what a bad year 2015 was.

Darkness in the Festival of Lights

December 6, 2015
bearfacedcow

Once again it is Chanukah and all around the world, we all celebrate by lighting candles on our Menorahs, eating latkes (very yummy potato pancakes) and give presents. And this time, I really have no desire to celebrate. I originally lost the desire to celebrate Chanukah after my father died when I was a child and spent almost all of my teenage years and my twenties raging out at God over it. Mind you, I went through the motions when my kids were young as my hurt wasn’t fair to them. Mind you, having found Jesus, we mistakenly wound up putting our Jewish celebrations on the shelf, at least until Joelle studied and wrote papers on the Jewish feasts.

Truly, I have to credit Joelle for getting us back on track with all of the Jewish celebrations, including Chanukah. Her renewed enthusiasm gave me a reason to celebrate. Even more so, we were having something to share with our grandchildren. They know more about being Messianic Jews than our kids really did. We would all light the candles and join together with our kids out west using Skype and we would all recite the Chanukah blessings. Between Joelle and them, I really felt like I was starting to have a reason to want to celebrate Chanukah again.

Until recently…

Watching Joelle suffer from cancer and all of the effects of chemotherapy and surgery has finally started to take its toll on me, especially after the last emergency visit to TGH. By Friday, I could barely keep a straight face in the office at the end of the day and people were noticing that I was finally starting to break down. I managed to rush out of the office in time to let it all out in the car on the way home. If anything, all I really wanted to do was sleep and do nothing else. Even after 11 hours of sleep, I felt like I wanted more.

Honestly, I have no real joy, or at least joy that I am experiencing, for this time of year when we are supposed to be feeling joyful. Even with all of the lights in our neighbourhood, everything feels dark. I have no desire to celebrate without my best friend by my side. She helped make the occasion bright. She lit up the room on Chanukah. A thousand candles couldn’t take away the darkness in the festival of lights while she is in the hospital.

The only hope I have right now is the one true light: Jesus. I do pray that he hears my voice and our suffering and shine his light on us this year, especially where we are physically, emotionally and in some cases spritually unable to. I pray that he will take his place upfront and center in my Menorah of Life and will shine his everlasting light on us and drive away the darkness.

Scars

November 8, 2015
bearfacedcow

It seems that throughout my life, there is one thing that is rather persistent: scars. My life is loaded with them. The ones that are on my body, I seem to celebrate and admire almost as if they were war wounds. I almost treat them as if I had walked out of a major battle loaded with these scars. Then there are many of the emotional scars that I, for some reason or another, seem to cover up and no talk about them in hopes that they will go away. The worst part of that is I don’t know why I do this.

I learned something about scar tissue that I find interesting. Scar tissue is formed by the body in order to seal, protect and repair a wounded area, and is far stronger than the tissue that it is holding together. If anything, it is quite the repair mechanism. One can say that scars make us stronger. We might walk away wounded from a situation, but we come back to it far stronger because of the scar. It’s almost as if it should be a medal of honour for having endured that battle.

I often look at the scar on my knee, thinking how I endured a 10-week long healing process beginning March 4th, 2015. It wasn’t easy, since a good part of the healing meant that I had spent almost all of that time with my leg in a splint, and not able to walk on it. The other part was regaining my range of motion through various floor exercises. It was a signal of a lifestyle change. Almost six months later, I have used that experience to rebuild my strength in my legs and take the rest of my body along for the ride. I walk better than I have in the past 10 years and I’m conquering other areas such as my physical fitness issues. That scar serves as a reminder of not only where I was, but where I am now and what I had to go through to get here.

If their function is such a grand function in the scheme of things, why do we go through huge efforts to cover them up, or remove them, and pretend like it never happened? It is almost as if marketing has been brainwashing us into seeing scars as nothing but ugly marks on our person. We then managed to take it even further with phrases such as “scarred for life”, or “emotionally scarred”. They use it in the sense as if someone has been permanently damaged. Yes, I get that there are many events in our lives that can leave us emotionally damaged. I have had my share, starting with seeing my father dying at the age of seven. It still gets me emotional. Am I emotionally scarred? Yes, in some parts. However, to me, these scars mean that some of the damage has healed and I can look at those emotional scars knowing that I have gone through a healing process. I can look at those emotional scars knowing that I have lived through various ordeals, and in many cases, loved. A lot of the emotional scars that I bear have taught me not only am I capable of love, but also tell me that I know what love is. The scars I bear from love in many ways have made love grow stronger.

Will I have more scars? I’m sure I will. They won’t be pleasant, and some will be from downright painful moments in my life. But, at least I will be able to look at the scars as healing. I will be able to look at them and remind myself of where I am now because of them. I will be stronger, in some way, because of those scars.

Keeping your kids safe for Halloween

October 26, 2015
bearfacedcow

These days, it feels like trick or treating is becoming more and more hazardous. Yes, there are many great neighbors out there who love to see kids come up to their door, and I admit to being one of them. Heck, I had a ton of fun last year going trick or treat with my grandchildren in Alberta last year. However, it only takes one rotten apple to kill Halloween. Some of them will even try to literally kill it. Many of them have done things like stick pins and razor blades in apples, poisoning candy, and handing out drugs disguised as candy. It is up to us as parents and grandparents to protect our kids from these types of people.

One idea that I had to hopefully keep kids safe this year involves some work on the parents’ or guardians’ part, but could hopefully keep the bad apples out of spoiling the kids Halloween fun. I call it the two bag system.

Parents should get a box of Ziploc bags, Avery labels and a Sharpie to take with them as they take their kids trick or treating. Along with this, they should use a two-bag system. One bag is for the kids to go to the doors with and the other bag is for the the parents to hold onto. As the kids come back from each door, the parents take the candy from that one house and place it in a Ziploc bag. They then label it with the house address using the label and Sharpie and there put the Ziploc bag into your bag. The kids’ bags should always be empty when going up to someone’s house. When you get home, inspect each Ziploc bag. This way, if something suspicious is in that Ziploc, you have a good idea where it came from. And, should a number of parents and teenagers do the same thing and find the same thing, it could make it a little easier for the police to get involved and investigate.

Is it more work? Yes. Are our kids’ lives worth this effort? YES! I wouldn’t be surprised if people reading this dismiss the idea as paranoid and distrustful. The only thing I will say to this is that you are living in a bubble if you believe that this will never happen to you and your kids. Just remember that people put on some great disguises on Halloween. Sometimes, a psycho’s greatest disguise is to look like any other good neighbor.

Seasons of Life

October 22, 2015
bearfacedcow

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die;a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal;a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose;a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew;a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate;a time for war, and a time for peace.

— Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

When I look back on everything that has happened in 2015 so far, I will be one of the first to admit that I can’t wait to put this entire year behind me in hopes that 2016 will be better. However, in my quest for some wisdom into everything that has happened and is currently happening this year, it dawned on me that these things in life are nothing more than seasons. By themselves, they seem rather finite and perhaps even gloomy at times. However, in life, seasons are rather linear and connected. If you look at how they flow together to make a complete year, you can see how winter flows into spring, spring flows into summer, summer flows into autumn, and autumn flows into winter. It is rather seamless. Life mimics the seasons as everything flows into each other.

As it seems, I have been focusing on a the old seasons in my life, and only seem to be looking at their ending. What I seem to be missing is how they are flowing into the beginning of new seasons almost seamlessly. And honestly, these transitions don’t really stick out that I could notice at a glance. Some of them seem to require some insight on my part.

For example, earlier this year, I managed to tear my quadricep muscle clean off of my knee on my left leg, requiring emergency surgery, followed by 10 weeks of physiotherapy, not to mention having to spend that time off of that leg. At the time, it seemed like I was thrown into the eye of a hurricane. What I didn’t see was what was waiting for me on the other side. Before the injury, I was walking with a limp for the past ten years, due to a karate mishap. Getting around was painful. If anything, the injury gave me a chance to start over. I have been relearning how to walk for the past five months along with rebuilding the strength in my leg. I’ve managed to use this transition to take my physical health more seriously. While rebuilding the strength in my legs, I have also been working on my upper body strength and building muscle to combat my body fat. Where I am now compared to five months ago, is a pretty significant difference. I can notice differences in my physical appearance and the best part is that I walk far better than I have done in the past ten years. As my oldest daughter would say, I tore the limp clean off. After all, who ever gets injured and is better off from it? In the entire 10 year span, the line from the first injury to now is hard to perceive if you break it into chunks. As a whole however, it’s a little easier to see the seasons on that particular time-line.

Being able to see this time-line in this light has allowed me to see other events in my life in a much better light. I’m not saying that they felt like the best thing to happen to me, but looking back at them make me feel a little better considering the seasonal transitions to where I am today. Some things have proven to be worth the pain that I endured, while others have made me stronger, either physically, intellectually, or emotionally.

Admittedly, there are many new events springing from Joelle’s cancer. We’ve had to stop doing weddings and right now, it does feel like life is on hold. However, I am starting to find that I am getting a chance to think about the next chapter in our lives. If anything, there are many possibilities out there, and it is going to take time to see what is waiting for us. But all in all, it is another season in life. Many things are ending, and at the same time, they are transitioning into the beginning of other things. What they are remains to be seen. The chunks on the time-line are not big enough at the moment. However, rather than feeling down over things that have passed, perhaps I should be excited in anticipation of the things to come.

And now for this this commercial message – brought to you by my Q10

October 5, 2015
bearfacedcow

Yup, time for some more ramblings from my Q10. This time, it really is just that: rambling. To be honest, Joelle wonders how I can type so much on this phone. She can’t believe that I am spinning off blogs from this phone. Perhaps I should tell her how some people are writing books on their BlackBerry. Honestly, I am starting to get it. I’m starting to find that I am more inspired to write, not because I have a Q10, but because I have a device that allows me to just flow with ideas. Everything just flows.

I never was able to be this productive on my Z10. Not that the phone was bad or anything. I just found that I was not able to type properly on an all-touch device. It always felt like I was struggling with the phone, with the phone winning. Aside from feeling slow, I felt like I was typing like a two year old. I was not only making a ton of spelling mistakes, but I was also grabbing the wrong words to flick up to the screen. It sometimes made for the most interesting sentences. If anything, I got to the point where I would only type on it as necessary. I didn’t use it to write songs as much, and I certainly didn’t use it to do blog pages like I am doing here.

Don’t get me wrong. I know where the value of an all-touch device comes in. If I didn’t do as much typing as I do, I can see myself using an all-touch, because they are good for clicking buttons and sliding objects around. However, keyboards on all-touch devices are not keyboards to me. They have no boundaries to indicate where one key ends and another begins. Not to mention that it doesn’t feel like I am hitting a key. Not every phone is for everyone, but I know what is working for me.

I won’t even discuss my Z10’s predecessor at length. I couldn’t get anything done on my old iPhone, and I tried. To me, that thing was counterproductive. Okay enough of that.

I can see why my youngest daughter, Dina, gets so much done with her BlackBerry. To me, she is a real BlackBerry master. I don’t know many people that are able to type with their BlackBerry by their side. I want to be like that. But, for now, I am glad to be able to type with confidence and a lot more speed than I was able to do on any other smartphone. I am grateful for being able to get all of my ideas down. I never imagined that such a handheld device would inspire me to write as much as I have been doing.

There we go. I have gushed long enough about a phone. Time to ramble about other things, such as…

When God Speaks

September 29, 2015
bearfacedcow

The lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the Lord, where the ark of God was. Then the Lord called Samuel, and he said, “Here I am!” and ran to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call; lie down again.” So he went and lay down. And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him. And the Lord called Samuel again the third time. And he arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” Then Eli perceived that the Lord was calling the boy. Therefore Eli said to Samuel, “Go, lie down, and if he calls you, you shall say, ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant hears.’” So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

— 1 Samuel 3:3 – 9

Whoever actually coined the phrase, “When we talk to God, it’s prayer, but when God speaks to us, it’s schizophrenia”, must have been an atheist and probably a psychiatrist attempting to snuff out what believers may be tuned in to.

Yup, it’s time for some more ramblings from my Q10. I’m sure that Joelle is going to soon regret letting me have this BlackBerry. I really have to admire her talent for being able to read my blog posts with her eyes rolling the way they do whenever I do these things. That’s probably why I love her so much.

But I digress…

Let me start by saying that throughout Joelle’s entire cancer ordeal, I really don’t believe that we have been walking alone in this. I truly believe that God has been walking with us. You can call me insane all you want, but unless you are walking in my shoes and have been witnessing everything I have been feeling and hearing, then you really wouldn’t know anything about it.

One indicator that I don’t believe that I am alone is that I have often woken up in the middle of the night crying and somewhere in between the all of the praying and crying, I could swear that I have felt someone touching me. It’s as if I could feel a hand touching my back or my side and then rolling over to find that there is no one there. I have no reason to doubt that there could be an angel sent by God to comfort me in these times. And if it is crazy, then I would rather go with the crazy and feel like I am not alone than with the normal and lonely, especially at this time.

There are also times where I am asleep, or at least I am falling asleep, and I will hear my name being called. Usually, my first reaction is to wake up and turn around to see who is calling me. Of course, there is no one there, and I know it is not Joelle because not only is she sleeping, but I know her voice, and have known so for over thirty years.

It reminds me of the scripture that I posted regarding Samuel. Every time he heard God’s voice calling him, he kept going to Eli and asking what he wanted. Of course, Eli responded with, “it wasn’t me.” Eli also told Samuel that the next time God is calling him, he should answer God and tell him that His servant is listening.

Interesting. I have had many times when I felt that I was hearing my name being called. Every time I have heard it, I felt like it was one of those moments where I could feel it right down to my soul. It was more than simply hearing my name. It was more like feeling my name. And yet, every time I heard it, I never really answered. I just simply turned around to see who was there.

I have always begged for God to talk to me and now it seems like I am getting my wish. So instead of trying to see who is there and not even try to answer back, I should be more like Samuel and have the courage to ask God to speak some more because I am now listening. Of course you are thinking that it sounds like insanity, but look at it this way: if there is no one there, then all I am really doing is talking to the air. However, if God is there and I don’t try to speak up when I am being spoken to, then I am really missing the chance of a lifetime. As well, I will also be proving my lack of faith because I had prayed and God was answering my prayers.

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