Monday, September 26, 2011

Back to Da Vinci

I took my daughter to the Da Vinci exhibit at the MTS Exhibit Hall today. We spent almost 3 1/2 hours going through the display. It was a great way to spend some father/daughter time. It was especially gratifying to observe my daughter's enthusiastic interest in this historical phenomenon. I have always enjoyed exploring history and it warmed my heart to be able to share that with my daughter. I look forward to sharing it with my son in the near future.

I had written about some of my thoughts and reactions to the Da Vinci Exhibit in a previous post; my reflections today took me on a different path.

In the Exhibit we learned that da Vinci was a pacifist, yet many of the commissions he took were of a military nature. He was commissioned to design and build up defenses in Florence and Milan. He also designed and developed some horrifically devastating and efficient war machines and weapons. I wonder how he rationalized compromising his pacific values for the sake of an income. What impact did the conflict between his beliefs and his work have on him?

Apparently da Vinci struggled with crippling bouts of depression. Did his compromise contribute to his struggle?

How often do we sacrifice our values and beliefs?

Why do we compromise our integrity?

Are we willing to pay a price to maintain our integrity? To stand firm on our values and beliefs?

What does our integrity cost us? What about the price of compromise? What happens to our values and beliefs when we compromise them?

As I look back on times where I failed to completely stick to my values and beliefs I realize it wasn't worth it. Over the long haul it wreaked havoc on my health; physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. It also damaged many relationships.

The price is too high.

Integrity is too valuable to compromise.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Reflection on Job

“Listen carefully to my words;
   let this be the consolation you give me.
 Bear with me while I speak,
   and after I have spoken, mock on." 
Job 21: 2-3

 I've been reading many things over the past few weeks. Among them has been the book of Job and the story of David. The above statement by Job got me thinking.

Job has been devastated by losses. His wealth, his family, and his health are gone. His friends, who came to console him, have been attacking him and accusing him of being the cause of his own misfortune. Any of that sound familiar?

I'm sure all of us can remember a time where we felt wrongfully accused and judged. How did we respond? Probably with righteous indignation! Job certainly did. He tells his friends, "If you want to console me, listen to me. Let me say my piece. Wait until you've heard me out before you mock me, accuse me and judge me!"

I wonder.

Do I really listen to others? Am I paying attention or am I busy preparing my response?

Do I judge people without understanding them and their situation?

Do I give advice without knowing the person and and their circumstances?

Do I give advice instead of listening for understanding?

Do I give advice where it's not wanted or helpful?

Do I resent people dismissing or ignoring my advice?

Do I judge instead of empathizing, consoling, listening and supporting?

Do I try to impose my solutions on others?

Do I think to myself, "That person doesn't really want to be helped", and then turn around and walk away?

I know others have done it to me and I hated it! Why would I think others would graciously and enthusiastically accept behaviour from me that I refuse to accept from them?

What would my response to Job be when he states:

“How you have helped the powerless!
   How you have saved the arm that is feeble!
 What advice you have offered to one without wisdom!
   And what great insight you have displayed!
 Who has helped you utter these words?
   And whose spirit spoke from your mouth?"
Job 26: 2-4

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Keeping up with Technology

Yesterday I watched a story on the evening news about schools in Brandon moving towards putting an IPad into every student's hands. This goal is intended to teach the kids the skills they need to keep up with our ever changing world of technology.

I wonder how much time and energy will be put into teaching the kids important lo-tech and no-tech skills. Things like reading, writing, spelling, simple arithmetic, the art of face to face conversation, respectful debating, letter writing, recreation absent of electronic toys, etc. What about important life skills such as job hunting, preparing for a job interview, how to have a successful job interview? I know kids are taught how to do up a resume but from my observation too many kids are unaware of the rest of the employment seeking process.

I like technology. But I've fallen behind; I haven't kept up with technological changes. Ten years ago I built my own computer. Now I browse through the ads for new communication and entertainment technology and I feel illiterate. I also get excited and contemplate the possibilities presented by the new offerings.

Heidi prefers that I keep a distance from new technology. A few days ago she saw me 'light up' when a friend mentioned some new bluetooth technology to me. I think Heidi's biggest concern is that I'll spend money on new 'toys' that we don't need and can't afford. I understand that, but it doesn't stop me from dreaming.

I did manage to sell Heidi on the benefits of purchasing some new communication technology that will allow us to 'fire' our telephone service provider and save ourselves at least $500 per year. We're going to use VOIP technology. (Voice Over Internet Protocol). We purchased the hardware a couple of days ago but I'm holding off on setting it up because we're awaiting a couple of important telephone calls on our current phone number. (We'll have a new number when I make the switch).

There are one or two other changes/additions we're considering, but I have to finish examining the cost / benefit factors involved before going any further. In the meantime, I will work harder at maximizing the technology we currently have, beginning with going for a bike ride before it starts to rain.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Oddz 'n' Endz

I don't know what to write today - in fact I've drawn a blank for 3 days now. But I want to stay in the habit, so I'll just go where ever my mind takes me.

Today would be my parent's 58th wedding anniversary. My father died 6 years ago. My mother lives just down the hall from us. What do you say to a person on a day they used to celebrate with a loved one that's no longer there? I struggle with that question.

This past Saturday I bought some gladiolas for my mother. (I bought some for my wife too). My father used to bring my mother gladiolas on their anniversary. I remember the flowers standing around in 1 quart mason jars because my mother didn't have large enough vases for them. When I brought her the flowers on Saturday her eyes teared up. "Our anniversary is coming up".

"I know, that's why I brought the flowers."

I called her this morning to see how she was doing. She said, "you should see the flowers. They're beautiful."

I guess I don't need to say anything - the flowers said it.

Last week I wrote about preferring silence over music. Since then it seems music doesn't want to stay quiet. When Heidi read the post she told me she found it sad. She also said that she had refrained from listening to her favourite music for a long time now out of deference for my desire for silence. I don't want to be the cause of her avoiding something she enjoys. So what do I do with that?

Later that same day I was reading a study on David and the author focused on David's music. Especially the healing power of music. I'm feeling prodded now. That evening my mom called and asked Heidi and me to go to the Andre Rieu concert at the MTS Center the next evening. She could get tickets for $2.50 (that's a whole other story) but she didn't want to go alone. So we went. I tried to stay detached from the music - I wanted to be able to sleep that night. Then Andre Rieu went on about how great music was, it was the most wonderful thing in the world, it was healing, etc. This is moving beyond simple prodding.

Yesterday at church I found myself struggling during the worship time. To sing or not to sing? If I don't sing am I refraining from worship? Am I maintaining a gap between God and myself? Did I make a mistake publicly disclosing my preference for silence?

Last night I checked my Facebook messages and found a link to a website along with a request to download some music and provide some feedback. I guess I'll have to revisit this music or silence business.

Speaking of feedback, I have requests for reviews of books I have recently read and been requested to read in my email inbox. I'll have to decide what I'm going to do with those requests.

Heidi is back at work today. Her vacation is over. I need to put together some kind of routine because the day is half over and I haven't accomplished much yet.

It's a beautiful day today. The sun is shining. Not a cloud in the sky. Time for a bike ride.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Can't You Read The Sign?

I went to visit my brother in hospital yesterday evening with my son and my mother. I parked in the closest hospital parkade so it would be easier for my 81 year old mother. It was one of those parkades where you take your ticket along and pay at a pay station prior to returning to your vehicle and leaving. The paid ticket opens the gate to let you out of the parkade. There are numerous signs informing people to pay at a pay station because it is not possible to pay at the gate.

We visited; I paid at the pay station; we got into the car and headed to the exit. When we got there only one exit lane was open and there was a large new 1/2 ton truck at the automated gate control box which takes the paid tickets and opens the gate. The young lady driving the truck got out of the vehicle and seemed confused. She finally called out to me and asked how to pay for parking. When I told her she needed to pay at a pay station she angrily asked why she hadn't been informed of this beforehand. My first thought was, "how did she miss all the signs?"

By this time there were another two cars parked behind us. We all had to back up to allow this young lady to back her truck out of the way and then go pay for her parking. On the drive home we talked about what we had just seen. We wondered why she hadn't seen the signs explaining the process of paying for parking. Was she oblivious to everything around her? Was she incredibly unobservant? Had she not used this parking system before? Was she unfamiliar with this process because she was from out of town? Maybe she was from a rural community and for this reason was anxious about driving in the city. Maybe the many different signs overwhelmed her and she missed the parking instructions. Maybe she was from a very remote first nations community and too much in the city was foreign to her for her to know to look for instructions on how the parking worked.

Two evenings ago we were standing at a downtown bus stop on our way home from a concert at the MTS Center. All of a sudden there were numerous car horns blaring. We looked up and saw a vehicle blocking traffic as the driver waited to make a left turn right in front of a 'No Left Turn' sign. Could this person not read the sign? Did they not see it? Did they see the sign and intentionally ignore it? It was dark. Did the sign get lost in the many signs and lights on Portage Avenue? Was this another person new to the city that was overwhelmed by all the traffic, lights and signs?

There are so many signs and lights surrounding us. Has it gotten to be too much?

About a week ago Heidi and I were driving home in the dark and went past an intersection attended by two or three emergency vehicles. There were so many flashing red lights that it was difficult to spot the red traffic lights. As the driver, I found it a little disorienting.

We are in the middle of another election and it's getting difficult go few hundred feet without seeing at least one campaign sign. They're on people's lawns, on fences, in windows of homes and businesses. Add in garage and yard sale signs on boulevards and medians; panhandlers holding up handmade signs on the medians at major intersections, billboards, traffic signs, direction signs, the occasional business mascot dancing around waving a sign on the side of the street, lighted signs, mobile signs, billboards on buses, advertising signs on taxi rooftops, etc and it's not surprising that a person can either miss a sign or become dangerously distracted.

Yesterday a business just 2 blocks from where we live had their application to have a large billboard on their roof replaced with an electronic billboard turned down by a city council committee. Many residents in the area objected to the electronic billboard. For this time at least the protest against more light and sign pollution succeeded.

All this stuff with signs reminds me of a 1971 hit by Five Man Electrical Band.


Most of all I remember the chorus.

Sign, sign.
Everywhere a sign.
Blockin' out the scenery.
Breakin' my mind.
Do this. Don't do that.
Can't you read the sign?

Given the increasing proliferation of signs it's obvious that little protest ditty was rather ineffective.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Where Did That Come From?

I was reading some historical material and came across a reference to a "royal dynasty" that I knew nothing about. As usual, I dropped what I was reading and began to research this "dynasty".

I came across a fascinatingly diverse body of information and resources. The websites ranged from carefully researched and documented (referenced) data to bizarre and outrageous claims, conspiracy theories and end times prophecy interpretations.

The carefully researched historical data was quite limited and included a clarifying statement  which indicated that documented information was extremely limited.

Most of the websites I found contained such bizarre, off the wall material that I couldn't resist the urge to follow the multitude of links to increasingly ridiculous hypotheses. It was hilarious and yet sad at the same time. While I wondered where these nutbars came from, I also bookmarked a lot of this nonsense for further exploration. I find it is just too entertaining and intriguing to ignore. I don't understand why people actually signed their names to some of this 'pseudohistory'. The wildest ones were arguments relying on mythology, conspiracy theories, and biblical 'proof texting' as evidence supporting the author's position.

As I reflected on this stuff I thought of some people I have come across. They were individuals with very strong, unshakeable opinions. Unfortunately, their opinions seemed to be based on incorrect or incomplete information that they had picked up second or third hand. The sad part is that too many of these individuals were so narrow minded that they wouldn't tolerate a different opinion or do their own research to educate themselves or verify their opinion.

Every time I encounter attitudes like this, or weird, questionable information passed off as scholarly, factual presentations, I am reminded to examine my own beliefs, attitudes, and opinions to ensure that people listening to me don't wonder, "Where did that come from?"

If you're bored or curious, google 'merovingian line'.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where Did The Music Go?

What do I do with my music?

I used to have a burning passion for music. It has disappeared.

It doesn't seem so long ago that I had 14,000+ music files on my computer. Now I have none. I used to have music playing almost all the time; now I prefer silence.

In my youth I dreamed of becoming a classical violinist. I took lessons for years, went to Germany to study where I also began playing viola. I've played at weddings, in various orchestras, with choirs at a  variety of concerts; I even started a church orchestra which I led for 5+ years. I sang in many choirs for years, I even directed choirs on occasion. Now my violin and viola are collecting dust. It's been a few years since I even opened the cases. I don't want to sing in choirs anymore. In fact, I rarely sing.

I have hundreds of music cd's sitting in binders in our storage room. I still have an unknown number of LP's; also in the storage room. I have the hardware and software to digitize the LP's but at the moment I lack the inclination to do so.

A little over a year ago Heidi and I discussed the idea of me picking up a cello to start playing that instrument. I haven't pursued this thought for a number of reasons. One, because it's not within our budget right now, but mostly because I question how long my interest would endure. I don't need another stringed instrument gathering dust in the closet.

My love of music hasn't vanished. I still find it interesting and pleasurable. Heidi and I celebrated our last anniversary at Celebrations Dinner Theatre where we  thoroughly the musical entertainment. I looked at the upcoming concert schedule of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and was enticed by some of the offerings, but not enough to subscribe. When we went to the Da Vinci Exhibit last weekend I clearly recognized the background music, especially the pieces I had performed many years ago.

I have contemplated pulling out my worship and other christian music to try to enhance my meditation, prayer and scripture reading time. Something unknown and undefined is holding me back.

I know I still have thousands of mp3's on some of my external hard drives. Several years ago I went through all my digital music and deleted everything that I didn't own on CD or LP. It was time to dump all the music I had procured illegally. I have at least one filing cabinet drawer full of printed music and I think I still have a hymnal or two, although I gave most of what I had to my daughter when we moved last winter. I do not lack for means or resources to have music in my life. Nevertheless, music is mostly absent.

Occasionally I become aware of a tune or melody faintly running through my head. But it doesn't consume me as it once did. There was a time where music did consume me. I couldn't shut it off. I sometimes went for days without sleep because the music kept growing and expanding. The music would go on until I ran completely out of energy and crashed into a depression. Crashes usually resulted in chaos; financial, relational, spiritual, and personal. One person remarked to me that I had a gift that I couldn't control; it controlled me.

Maybe that's why I prefer silence. I'm tired of crashing. I want no part of any more chaos.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Voting Options?

Our provincial election is in less than a month.

Will I vote? I don't know. Do I have real options to vote for? Do I vote for a political party or for a particular candidate in our riding? Heidi and I live in riding dominated by one party for many decades now. The other two parties don't even seem to make a concerted effort to capture this legislative seat. Will my vote make a difference one way or another?

Much is made of our right to vote; our freedom to participate in the political process; our responsibility to exercise our civic duty. I don't know how many times I have heard and read the statement that if you don't vote you shouldn't complain about the outcome or its consequences.

But as I observe and study the current campaigns I wonder, do I really have voting options?

The leaders of our three political parties are out campaigning. Day after day we are informed of another announcement by the premier, the leader of the opposition and a delusional doctor ( he seems to think he can become premier - fat chance of that happening). We either hear about the ineptness of our current government or the frightening, hidden agenda of the leader of the official opposition. The two major parties appear to ignore the delusional doc. All three leaders are making promises about the millions of dollars they will spend on an ever growing list of supposed provincial needs and concerns.

Has our election become an auction? Do the candidates really believe that the highest bidder will get the votes needed to form the next government? Do the politicians think our populace can be bought? Do they think people will ignore the reality of out of control government deficits? Are we (voters) that gullible? Are we that unaware of the global chaos brought on by government debt? Are we so clueless that we close our eyes to the instability of our economy?

Why should I vote for political parties that either promise me more spending or simply attack their opponents?  I want to hear intelligent, detailed policy platforms. I want to hear concrete strategies on how the parties plan to reduce the deficit and balance the budget, while at the same time creating an environment for economic growth and stability. I want to hear articulate debates about real issues and solutions.

There is an abundance of issues. Among them are rising demands on our health care  system,  increasingly violent crime, crumbling infrastructure, growing poverty and homelessness, etc.

I want to vote.

But give me some options. Mudslinging does not give me choices. Raising your bid with more spending announcements in a time of run-away deficits does not give me the confidence or desire to vote for you.

I'm still waiting to hear a message that will encourage me to vote one way or another.

Will I vote?

Only if I have some legitimate options. I haven't noticed any so far.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Rabbit Trails

I have an inquisitive mind. I love to read, analyze, and otherwise examine the ideas, issues,  and information I encounter. Yesterday was the kind of day that sets my mind to spinning.

During the day I was reading several chapters out of four or five different books. I read a few chapters from one book, then moved on to another. One book was light fiction, the others were books that required the brain to be engaged. My mind wandered down a number of interesting paths.

The day concluded with a wonderful, enjoyable and stimulating evening. We got together with two other couples and explored the Da Vinci exhibit at the MTS Centre Exhibition Hall.  Afterwards we all went to one couple's home where we visited for almost 4 hours over snacks and drinks. We began by sharing our observations and reactions to the da Vinci exhibit and then wandered through an interesting assortment of topics. During this conversation I was asked if I would blog about the da Vinci exhibit.

So that's where I'll start and then see what other rabbit trails I'll chase down.

Leonardo da Vinci was a complex man with many gifts and interests. He was also a very inquisitive person who pursued many ideas. He is best known for his inventions, his mirrored script, the Vetruvian Man, and his paintings of the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper. Among other things, Da Vinci was a painter, sculptor, inventor, and engineer. We spent two hours at the exhibit and I could have easily spent twice as much time there or more. I'll be going back.

I must admit that I don't understand the fascination (almost obsession) with the Mona Lisa. So much has been written and speculated about the painting over the years. To me it seems a bit much for a picture that I remember being quite small when I saw it at the Louvre in 1984.

A significant part of the exhibit was focused on the Mona Lisa. It reported on a multi spectral scanning of the painting with displays of close - up of details revealed by scanning the painting with thirteen different wave lengths from ultra-violet to infra-red. Apparently this scanning revealed 25 secrets of the Mona Lisa. One image of the painting depicting both the front and back was supposedly in its actual size. It seemed larger than what I remembered. Since it has been 27 years since I was at The Louvre I googled the Mona Lisa and learned the canvas is 30 inches x 20 7/8 inches. My memory is certainly off on this one. What other erroneous ideas and memories do I carry around in my head?

Leonardo da Vinci lived during the Renaissance. I wonder why the piped in background music in one of the display rooms was all baroque music. Seems odd! I would have been more inclined to pipe in Renaissance music.

I had always had the impression that da Vinci was a prolific inventor whose ideas were way before his time. A misinformed assumption. I learned that along with his many original ideas and inventions, many of his notes and sketches were attempts to improve on things that were already in existence.

I thought his Last Supper was a typical fresco. Wrong again! Da Vinci experimented with different materials and painting method. This experiment was not a success story and the resulting rapid deterioration has required many restorations. So have the restorations retained the integrity of the painting? I don't know - something to check out.

The various restoration attempts on the Mona Lisa have affected the colour and other details of the image. The restorations remind me of a slide show presentation I saw when I was a kid. The pastor of our church was a retired teacher who did a lot of travelling. He loved history and always toured historical sites and buildings. Upon his return he usually gave a presentation about his trips with lots of slides for us to see. On this occasion the images were of various buildings and pieces of art at the Vatican. Lots of pictures of the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. The images on the ceiling were dark, with dull colours. I remember much was made about this being Michelangelo's painting style and scholars were trying to read some kind of hidden meaning into this style using dark, dull and subdued colours. In 1980 a cleaning and restoration of the chapel ceiling was begun. Turned out the dark, subdued colours were the result of the buildup of varnishes that had been used in past restoration attempts and the accumulation of dust and the smoke from many candles. The colours unveiled by the cleaning were vivid, bright and bold. Another 'truth' revealed. So much for all that scholarly speculation.

So what is true and what isn't?

I read a historical novel recently where the writer took a different approach in his foreword than Dan Brown did in The Da Vinci Code. Brown insisted that everything in his book was based on fact. This writer informed the reader that half the information in the book was true, the other half wasn't. It was up to the reader to determine which was which.

A number of years ago I read Holy Blood, Holy Grail by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln. The writers made an incredible number of claims based on myths, legends, ancient mysteries and conspiracy theories. They presented this information as historical fact. I found their arguments to be nothing more than speculation, and their insistence that their findings were evidence of the truth still seem ludicrous to me. Dan Brown drew the facts in his novel The Da Vinci Code out of the information in this 'history book'. I laughed when Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln took Dan Brown to court and sued him for copyright infringement. The judge threw the suit out saying no one can copyright historical fact. Since Baigent and his buddies insist that their book is historical fact, everybody was free to use the information any way they pleased. So no copyright infringement.

So what is truth? Do I understand and interpret truth based on my personal experiences, biases, and beliefs?Is my truth tainted by my many filters?

Two scenes popped into my mind.
  1. The conversation between Pontius Pilate and Jesus described in John 18: 37 & 38.  Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”   “What is truth?” retorted Pilate.
  2. A scene from the movie A Few Good Men with Tom Cruise and Jack Nicholson. Cruise: "I want the truth!" Nicholson; "You can't handle the truth!"
I wonder, do I always accept what I'm told as truth? Do I always really want the truth? I know I like to research information given to me and determine its veracity for myself. Do I do that often enough? Should I be more questioning about information I receive? Do I accept the word of some people that I shouldn't? Where does this inquisitiveness cross the line into suspicion and paranoia?

Earlier yesterday I came across a book criticizing a new book by a very popular current author who is also the pastor of a mega church (more than 10,000 members). I went on-line to see if this criticism was an isolated challenge or more widespread. I found the book (which I haven't read, yet) and author being challenged and refuted by a host of biblical scholars and Christian leaders. According to these critics the author had ignored biblical truth and was presenting his own ideas as authoritative. How many of his parishioners question and research this man's writings and teachings? How many accept and agree with his message because of his leadership position?

How well am I discerning the truth? Should I be more enquiring?

One of the books I was reading is about David; shepherd, musician, warrior, king; a man after God's own heart. In it I came across the following:

Solitude has nurturing qualities all its own. Anyone who must have superficial sounds to survive lacks depth. If you can't stand to be alone with yourself, you have deep, unresolved conflicts in your inner life. Solitude has a way of helping us  address those issues. (Chuck Swindoll)

Is that true?

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1-3

Friday, September 9, 2011



Our news media is brimming with articles, video footage, still images, and audio recordings reminding us of the events of Thursday, September 11, 2001. Most of us remember vividly where we were and what we were doing the day the twin towers of the World Trade Center came crashing down. The images of airplanes deliberately flying into the towers will forever stick with us. The next several days will bring an increase in media coverage of this event that changed our world. This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of that day.

It will be a day of remembering. The 9/11 commemerative structures at ground zero will be revealed. The victims will be remembered. The men & women who died trying to save others will be remembered and honoured.

I remember sitting in a computer multi media class when I heard airplanes had flown into the towers. I remember worrying about my children; wondering how they were being affected by this news.

My kids had flown a lot in the 5 years prior to this event as they came to visit me frequently from Mississauga where they lived with their mom and step dad. Now they lived with Heidi and me and were faced with flying to Toronto to visit their mom. I remember my daughter didn't want to step on an airplane again. She voiced her preference for her mom to take the risk of flying to Winnipeg to visit her and her brother.

We all have memories. Memories are strange. Why do we remember some things and not others? Why are my memories different than others who have shared the same experience? Why is it so easy to remember the bad stuff and takes effort to remember the good? Why does my sister remember names and faces from as far back as kindergarten (50 years ago) and I have trouble remembering my neighbours' names?

Just like 9/11 there are things that stick with us.

I remember the day JFK was assassinated. I was 9 years old. I didn't immediately understand the significance of this news, and to this day I'm puzzled about why we (Canadian school kids) were sent home from school because the U.S. president got shot. I remember seeing a newspaper photo of the surgeon who tried to save Kennedy's life. In the photo he was pointing to the front right side of his head as he informed the assembled media where JFK had been hit. I remember the newspaper photo with the dotted line angling down from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository building representing the supposed trajectory of the killing shot that hit JFK in the back of the head. I remember my dad saying something was 'off' here.

I remember the construction of a high rise apartment building on Cumberland Avenue. A worker fell to his death during the construction. The next day's Winnipeg Free Press had a front page picture with a dotted line indicating the trajectory of the falling man. 

I remember the frenzy of end times excitement in the aftermath of Israel's stunning victory in the 6 day war in 1967. There was a heightened expectancy of Christ's imminent return! Where has that jubilation disappeared to?

I remember my dad taking me to the Winnipeg Arena for the Billy Graham crusade in the summer of 1967. I even remember the topic of the message being preached that evening. Billy Graham was going on and on about the coming war of  Armagedon. I remember that because a television light exploded above us in the middle of the sermon. We ducked because we feared the war had just started!

I remember air raid drills at school during the tense years of the Cold War. We had to practice hiding under our desks for protection from a nuclear blast. Who thought that one up?

I remember going to an orchestra concert at the old Civic Auditorium (now the Provincial Archive Building on Vaughn St) with my mom. We had seats in the first row of the balcony. My mom was so startled at the sudden drum roll calling us to stand for our national anthem that she dropped her program over the railing. My mom was embarrassed but I wanted to lean forward to see if it landed on someone as it fluttered down. I think my mom pulled me back because I don't remember seeing it land.

I remember my first trip to Germany in 1969. There were so many first time experiences. I met aunts and uncles and cousins for the first time. I remember watching the media coverage of the first moon landing during the time my sister and I were in Hanover, Germany. I remember my aunt driving on a section of the Nurburgring (site of the German Grand Prix at that time) in her little old VW bug that was challenged to go faster than 100 km/hr. Even going downhill I don't think it got over 110 km/hr. I remember workers at the side of the road laughing as we drove by.

I remember my first job interview. I was so nervous I had difficulty speaking. I'm surprised they hired me. I remember my first apartment and how good it felt to be away from my parents home.

I remember my first day at the Academy of Music and Theatre in Hanover Germany. I don't know how I passed the audition to get into that school. It was only by God's intervention. It certainly wasn't my inadequate violin playing skills.

I remember my 74 year old grandfather wanting to go on a bike ride with me and show me around Hanover. I don't know of any 18 yr old young man with a brand new racing bike that wants to be led around town on a bicycle tour by his grandfather. I remember I wasn't very keen on it but I did allow him that pleasure. (It was easier to do because nobody in that city knew who I was. Less chance of embarrassment that way).

I remember the stark harshness of my first up-close glimpse of the Berlin Wall. I vividly remember wandering through East Berlin and suddenly coming face to face with an East German Border guard. He had a sub-machine gun slung over his shoulder, a large Rottweiler on a leash in one hand, and a Doberman Pinscher on a leash in his other hand. I can almost still hear his voice as he told me, "You may not go any further here". I quietly turned around and walked in the opposite direction. I remember the anxiety I experienced as an East German Border guard gave me considerable grief when I was trying to return to West Berlin.

I remember the summer I left Winnipeg to hitchhike across western Canada. I remember moving from one fleabag hotel to another on Vancouver's Lower East-side. I remember the shock of regaining consciousness only to find myself behind bars in the drunk tank in Banff. I remember realizing it was time to leave town and make changes in my lifestyle when hotel security burst into my room in the employee's Annex at the Banff Springs Hotel wanting to search the room for drugs. I remember climbing to the top of Mount Rundle before I left for home.

I remember the nervous joy of my first wedding. I remember the thrill of the birth of my daughter, my first child. I remember feeling overwhelmed at the birth of my son. I remember the anger and grief at the ending of my first marriage. I remember the heartbreaking pain when my kids moved 1500 kilometers away with their mom and new stepdad.

I remember the joy I felt every time I picked my kids up from the airport and how difficult it was to put them back on a plane when their visit was over.

I remember the spirit crushing hopelessness of being a patient in a psych facility.

I remember the passion and energy of God's gift of new purpose and a new career. I remember the sense of challenge and fulfillment in the call to be an agent of change.

I remember the relief and happiness I felt when my kids came to live with me. I remember the feeling of peaceful confidence when Heidi and I got married. Confidence that this was a gift from God and that this relationship was right.

I remember the last day I worked. I made presentation to members of a Senate Committee. I remember the energy it took not to fall apart. I remember my psychiatrist asking me (Two days later), "What is God telling you about your job?" I remember responding with conviction, "I'm done!"

There are so many more memories than I can possibly list here.

Most importantly I remember the countless times God protected me and kept me safe when I did stupid and ridiculously dangerous things (I did many of those. Kept him busy).

I remember the healing  felt when I got baptized.

I remember God providing for me when I had nothing and didn't know how I was going to pay my rent, put gas in my vehicle, or get something to eat.

I remember the many times God revealed his presence to me, comforted me, and gave me peace. I remember him opening doors for me, leading me, and placing incredible people into my life.

I remember when God spoke to me in a psych facility.

God has blessed me richly. I need to remember to praise him daily, talk to him daily, and thank him daily.

Lord, please help me to always remember what you have done for me.

I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
   yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
   and meditate on all your mighty deeds.
Psalm 77; 11-12

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Slow Down and Breathe.

I have no energy today.

I got up early, showered, got dressed and got on my bicycle and rode downtown. My doctor wanted me to get some blood tests done, and I didn't want to sit in a waiting room at a lab waiting for my turn to get blood drawn. I got to the lab shortly after 7:30 a.m. Less than 20 minutes later I was back on my bike heading home. I took a bit of a detour but got home well before 9 a.m.

I feel drained today; and not just of a couple of vials of blood. My body feels sluggish, my brain seems to be a little foggy. I need to take a break today.

The past few weeks have been very good. I felt energized, alert, driven. That's just not there today. That's a sign I need to slow down a bit and breathe.

Over the many years of living with depression and anxiety disorder I have gone through many cycles of highs and lows. I've gradually learned to pay attention to what my body is telling me. If I ignore the message that my energy tank is getting dry and carry on at the pace I had been living, the inevitable low will be significantly deeper and take longer to climb out of.

So today is a day of rest. I'll put my feet up, talk to God a bit, catch some zzzzz's, watch a little Dr Who, do some light reading, and see if I can stay awake for the season-opening NFL game this evening.

Tomorrow is another day. Hopefully I'll have more energy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Renovations were begun in the lobby and main floor hallway of our building near the end of this past May. More than three months ago. They're still not finished.

A couple of days ago I met our caretaker as I came into the building and jokingly asked her, "Do you think they'll be done by Christmas?"

Her immediate response was, "Which Christmas?"

All joking aside, this ongoing construction has been an irritating and frustrating time for the caretaker and many of the tenants. The tradespeople coming into the building make a mess and don't clean up after themselves, leaving the caretaker with considerably more work. Many of the tenants association activities have had to be canceled. There seems to be no coordinated planning in how and when things are done. Days will go by without work being done, and then without notice someone will show up and do some work in a place and time that interferes with regularly scheduled services that have been delivered to tenants for decades. I came back from a bike ride one day to find that the entrances and elevators were all blocked off by flooring guys spreading adhesive for new carpet tiles. Tenants wanting to go out or come in had to use the fire stairs from the main to second floor and then use the elevator. That is a challenge for many residents of this 55+ building who rely on mobility aids to get around.

Some of the work that has been done is of very poor quality. Jobs are half done and then left incomplete for weeks on end. One of the more bizarre things was that new flooring was installed in about half the area being renovated - before drywall repair, spackling and painting was done.  Flooring, especially carpeting is usually the last thing to get done. The flooring that was installed is stained with adhesive at many of the joints because too much adhesive was used and it oozed up in the carpet tile joints. I told Heidi that if I were the landlord paying for the work, I would demand that it be redone properly.

Haphazard planning; inconvenient and random, inconsistent scheduling; sloppy workmanship! Is that the best way to go about doing renovations?

As I observe these dysfunctional antics, I wonder if  other people see me approach my personal renovations the same way.

As I examine how I do things I realize that my approach to daily living, personal growth and making changes in my life might look very similar to the inefficiency and poor outcomes I see in our building renovations.

I don't have a fixed routine. I don't keep a detailed, written 'to do' list. I don't plan meticulously, or prioritize. I don't clearly define goals.

Does that mean I'm risking less than desirable outcomes? Possibly, I suppose.

But I also know why I do things the way I do. Staying deliberately flexible reduces stress for me. I know what is important to me and I do have a mental list of the minimum I try to accomplish every day. Routines bore me and boredom quickly leads me into depression. Doing things slightly different every day keeps a sense of freshness in my day to day activity. Having a relaxed environment and pace is calming. An open schedule allows me to be spontaneous and creative. Reduced structure produces reduced pressure which in turn results in reduced anxiety for me. I know that if little, less important things don't get done today, there might be time for them tomorrow. And if not tomorrow, maybe the day after.

The laid back strategy is not a lazy, do nothing or as little as possible approach. It is a way of living that allows me to pace myself, and maximize my daily production without exhausting my energy reserves. It's my personal map to better mental, physical, and spiritual health.

I know what is of vital importance to me and I make every effort to look after those things. I pay attention to important details, but I try to avoid obsessing over them. I am careful to do things in an order that doesn't undo what I've done previously.

My personal renovations continue. I strive for ongoing personal growth. Some changes have happened and others are in progress. A more leisurely pace is producing far better outcomes for me than my past frenetic fretting and spinning has ever done. It's also not self destructive. This 'I'm retired' mentality that Heidi urged me to adopt seems to be working.  Life is good.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

First Day of School.

For the past week or so, Heidi and I have noticed the tang of autumn in the air.  The signs of Fall were more evident as we went for our bike ride this morning. The air was crisp and cool. We saw youngsters on their way to school. When we stopped in at Tall Grass Prairie Bakery for a couple of large, fresh cinnamon buns we were told they were already all gone. It was the first day of school, and the supply of these freshly baked delicacies had been cleaned out for teachers' meetings.

The first day of school reminds me that once again the season is changing. What will this new season bring?

This day also brings back so many memories. Memories of past first days of school. Probably the most remarkable first day of school memory for me is the first time I didn't go back to school. All my friends went back to school. My siblings went back to school. I kept going to work. That day felt very strange. It just didn't feel right. Something was missing.

There was no excitement; no eager and nervous anticipation or dread of what might lie before me. What were my new classes/courses going to be like? Who were my new teachers and what would they be like? Who were my new classmates? What new and interesting books would I be given to read?  How many boring lectures would  I fight sleep in? How many papers and exams would I have to struggle through? None of that!

Not going back to school felt so strange. It also put a distance between my friends and me. They were studying, I was working. Staying in the permanent workforce was a vastly different world from school. This was more than a change of season. It was a life change. My routine changed. My perspective on life changed. My priorities changed. I had a different peer group. My awareness of politics changed. Some of my values changed. My attitude and behaviour changed.

After working for 8 months I went back to school; in Germany. That first day of school was unlike any other I had ever experienced. It was in the Spring! Different country, different language, different culture, different values, no friends - only strangers, different educational system, different requirements and different expectations. Most of all, FREEDOM! - no restrictive parents to answer to.

Culture Shock! I felt lost; I discovered that the classical music skills and knowledge I had developed previously were insignificant in comparison to my new fellow students. Music students here came from families that had been professional musicians for many generations. They were immersed in their classical music heritage from day 1 of their lives. I was often asked who in my family had been a musician. No one that I knew of. People asked me where I was from because I spoke German with a strange accent. First time anyone told me that I spoke with an accent. It was an alien world for me, a little overwhelming, quite intimidating, and rather exciting. It was a character building year - not all of it good.

A year and a half later I experienced another unique (to me at least) first day of school. It was my first day at Bible College here in Winnipeg. Another Culture Shock! I felt like an outsider again. No other students in the school could relate to my life experiences. Most of them had never stepped out of the protective walls of their little Mennonite world. I had knowledge that others didn't have. I was also illiterate in subjects that other students thrived in. I had been exposed to life values (some of which I adopted) that many of my fellow students objected to and wanted no part of. Now I was told I spoke English with a bit of a German accent! Another character building year.

There were more first days of school that bore similarities to the above two. Days where the unique experiences I had left me feeling set apart because my Weltanschauung was so different than that of my fellow students. Each of these experiences were challenges that have shaped me.

There are first days of school that I regret. Because of the breakup of my first marriage I missed my children's first school days throughout their Elementary School years and my daughter's Junior High years. I would have liked to have been part of that.

Today is the first day of school for many children and young adults. How many of them are excited? How many of them are filled with dread? How many of them will achieve their hopes and dreams? How many feel like outsiders? How many will strike their own path? How many will just follow the crowd or the path of least resistance? How many will sink into despair? Will somebody be there to catch them and pick them up again? How many parents are excluded from this energized time? How many parents choose to distance themselves from this day? Is anyone marking this significant day with a celebration?

The first day of school signals a new season. What am I going to do with the new season before me?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Different Eyes

Some time ago I downloaded and installed Kindle for PC on my computer. Since then I have done a lot of surfing for free ebooks.  I have downloaded a lot of books that I'm looking forward to reading. Most of them are books that I've had an interest in for many years but couldn't justify spending the money. I was more than pleased to find so much available at no cost.

Among the books I downloaded was Somerset Maugham's  Of Human Bondage. It is a very lengthy novel that I had to read for my grade XII English class. I remember devouring that book back then (40 years ago) and I have reflected on that story a number of times throughout my life's journey.

I have been looking for Of Human Bondage in the 'Classic Literature' shelves of bookstores for many years and was never able to find it. I recently found the book on in the free kindle books. I downloaded that immediately. It is now one of the 4 or 5 books that I'm currently reading. My purpose in reading this book now is to rediscover the story, determine if my dim memory of the life journey of the main character is correct, and try to figure out what it was in that story that  has stuck with me in my own journey.

While browsing I also came across an author that I remember from my early adolescence. These books were adventure stories that a number of my relatives in Germany sent me for birthdays and as Christmas gifts. I had given these books away to the sons of a friend years ago. Out of curiousity, I downloaded these books too. I have started reading the first one of these books that I received as a 12 or 13 year old boy. I wondered if I still could read and comprehend German like I was able to many years ago. ( I am so far). I am also curious to figure out what it was in these stories that captivated my imagination so many years ago.

Reading books that I haven't seen in 40+ years is a very interesting exercise. I'm discovering things that I hadn't noticed before. It's as if I'm using different eyes.

I'm reading differently. Forty years ago I tore through the books to learn how the story ended. Now I employ the critical thinking skills I have learned. In both the books I mentioned I now have the patience to absorb the descriptive passages. In Of Human Bondage I now notice the small details that shape the growth of the principle character, details that I don't recall reading before.

In the German adventure story I am struck by two things.

Firstly, some of the descriptive passages are hilarious. I don't remember the presence of so much humour when I read the book as a boy. I read a couple of descriptive passages to Heidi and we were both highly amused. Secondly, I discovered an underlying thread that I completely missed  when I was younger. Underneath all the activity and adventure of the story line I find a discussion of what it means to be a Christian. There is a dialogue about ethics, integrity, love and acceptance. One very minor character who only makes a very brief appearance confesses guilt, remorse, repentance and  God's grace and forgiveness. Then there is an example of one man of faith making the ultimate sacrifice by giving his life so another man can live. The author can in no way be described as a writer of 'christian' fiction. This thread does not dominate the story, it is just a subtle little thread. I found this thread especially intriguing because the author was fired from several jobs because of theft. He spent 71/2 years imprisoned for fraud and embezzlement. His criminal career took place prior his becoming an author. I'm curious to learn where, when, and how things changed for this man.

The reading for content and significance that I do now is so different from the speed reading I did when I was younger.

The most important place I notice this difference is when I read Scripture. I am far more deliberate and attentive when I read now. I take time to contemplate the significance and implications of what I'm reading. I'm catching details I never have before. Reading with different eyes is enriching my experience and learning.

I'll have to pay attention to note what else I'm seeing and understanding differently.

Maybe the different eyes are a sign that I'm growing in maturity and wisdom? I hope that is the case.

Saturday, September 3, 2011


I'm taking another stab at reading the book of Job.The last time I tried I was going through another one of my bouts of depression and my inability to focus led me to give up. I'm doing better now and my concentration has bounced back considerably. It's time to try again.

One of the things in this story that has always jumped out at me is the initial reaction of Job's three friends when they see him overwhelmed by his physical and emotional pain.

     When Job’s three friends, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite, heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him.  When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.   Job 2: 11-13

For seven days and seven nights no one said a word to Job, because they saw how great his suffering was. That is astounding to me - sitting with someone who is in pain for a whole week without saying a word. A week of silence! I can't imagine myself doing that. In fact, I think almost everyone would be challenged if they tried to sit with a hurting friend and be silent for a week.

We want to 'fix' things, make it better. (Note that it was when Job and his buddies started talking that they began  to get themselves into trouble. They kept digging a deeper and deeper hole until God intervened). We want to console and comfort our friend. We want them to feel better as soon as possible. We want to feel better by doing or saying something we assume is helpful. Some of us are really uncomfortable with grief and pain so we either avoid it or we blunder our way through communicating our compassion and sympathy to our friend.

Silence can be one of our biggest challenges. We are very uncomfortable with silence.

I'm sure most of us can recall being in a study or discussion group. The facilitator/leader raises a question to stimulate discussion. Then there is silence. What happens when there is no immediate response; when the room is filled with silence? What does the leader do? What do you do in that situation? Have you experienced the leader jumping in and answering their own question? Or maybe they ask more questions? Have you done that? I know I'm guilty of having done that. Responding to your own question either allows others to keep quiet or takes away their opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Silence makes us squirm.

And yet, keeping silent can be the best gift we can offer someone in pain.

I know that when I'm in pain I don't want people to ask me all sorts of questions about what I'm going through. Don't ask me to help you understand my pain. It's exhausting enough talking through things with my therapist or counselor. Don't ask me how I'm doing if you don't want to take the time to really listen. If you are willing to take the time to listen remember that I'm answering your question; I'm not asking for your help or advice. Just listen and keep silent.

When I'm in pain I don't want to hear trite comments, empty platitudes and annoying, meaningless cliches.

When I'm in the midst of my pain, quoting Romans 8:28 to me is not helpful or encouraging. Doing so is more likely to piss me off than comfort me.

Don't tell me that you're praying for me - if you want to pray, pray. Don't burden me with the pressure of being grateful for something I didn't ask for. Do you want affirmation from me? Praise?

I remember returning to church one Sunday morning after stay in the psych facility at St Boniface Hospital. This was my first time back at church (a community I was part of more than 15 years ago) since I had been discharged. Although I was out of hospital I was still not doing very well. The first person I met was one of the deacons who also happened to be leader of the small group I was part of. She greeted me with a huge smile, lightly touched my shoulder and said, "Glad you're back. We've been praying for you." I almost injured myself refraining from telling her what she could do with her prayers. You see, during my hospitalization and subsequent recovery time at home I heard from absolutely no one from that church community. Informimg me that they were praying for me when they didn't bother to call or visit was not encouraging or affirming. I found it annoying, irritating and presumptuous. I felt that it presumed that I would be appreciative and grateful and feel supported. Instead, I was p.o.'d to the point where I almost turned around and left. It would have been much better if this person would have just said, "It's good to see you" and then shut up! You can't get into trouble if you keep quiet.

Even fools are thought wise if they keep silent, 
and discerning if they hold their tongues.
Proverbs 17:27-28

If I request prayer don't tell me you'll pray if you're not going to follow through. If you're praying with me, for my needs, be specific. Only pray about the needs I have expressed. If there's other stuff you want to pray about, do it in your own space and time. I once had a pastor of a church ask me if he could pray for me. (We were talking on the phone). I agreed and he started. I don't remember what he prayed for; he went on and on, but at no time did he specifically mention my name or my struggles. After we ended the conversation I realized the prayer was more about him feeling good for doing something he thought was helpful for me, than it was about me and my needs. For me , it was only noise. I didn't bear any ill will towards this man, but I felt sorry for him. He didn't get it.

I remember a conversation with a friend who had an extended hospital stay. He mentioned how exhausting some visitors were. They talked on and on, frequently about themselves and their own little world. He wished people understood that it would have been far more helpful and comforting for him if visitors just sat in silence with him.

We don't have to fill every space with noise.

I used to have music blaring all the time, especially if I was driving. When I lived on my own, the first thing I did when I got home from work was turn on my TV and my stereo. Now I prefer quiet. If the radio is on when I start up the car, I turn it off. Quiet is peaceful. I like that.

Silence can be a very useful tool.

Years ago I worked in a number of sales positions. I distinctly remember being taught how to use silence in a sales training program. We were taught the skill of asking the right question to set up closing the deal. I can still hear the instructor say, "Ask the question, then shut up. The person who breaks the silence loses." The strategy worked more often then not. If I broke the silence I usually provided the customer the opportunity to say, "No thanks" and walk away. If I stayed quiet and waited for the customer to speak first, I usually made the sale.

I've used silence to get other people to take me off the hook on many occasions. I remember being in a group support/counseling session where the facilitator was making a valiant effort to manipulate me into taking ownership of a problem. I stayed quiet. So did the facilitator. The silence was too much for another person in the group and they piped up. Now they were in the spotlight and I was free and clear - at least for that time.

Silence can be difficult. It seems so empty. We get tempted to fill the  emptiness even if we only have junk to fill it with.

Silence can be healing. Peaceful. Having someone sit with me in silence is comforting. I find it pleasantly peaceful when Heidi and I sit in the living room, each of us reading in silence. Sharing silence with someone you love can be fulfilling.

It's raining today so I'm not going for a ride on my bike. The air conditioner is off. So is the fan. It's quiet. I'm just going to sit and enjoy the silence for a while.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Aren't You Afraid of the Traffic?

As I was heading out for my bike ride this morning I encountered another tenant in the hallway on the main floor of our building. She is very tiny, much older than me, (as are all the other tenants in the building except Heidi), and always ready with a friendly greeting. When I see her, she is usually walking up and down the hallway getting her exercise (using a walker).

I greeted her with a warm, "Good Morning" and she responded in kind. Then she looked at me, smiled and asked, "Going out for your exercise?"


She looked me in the eye and very seriously asked me, "Do you ride on Portage Avenue?" (We live a very short distance from Portage Avenue which is a very busy east-west route in Winnipeg).


"Aren't you afraid of the traffic?"


"I guess you're used to it."

"Well, yeah." I shrugged my shoulders, not knowing what else to say.

She looked at me with questioning eyes trying to understand. "But those drivers are crazy!"

Trying to make light of it I responded, "I have a large presence. Drivers make an effort to avoid hitting me so they don't seriously damage their vehicles."

She failed to see the humour in what I said but another fellow walking by started grinning and chuckling as he carried on with whatever he was doing.

We wished one another a pleasant day and went on our separate ways.

As I was riding, her question, "Aren't you afraid of the traffic?" kept running through my mind. I thought about it and asked myself, "Why not?"

I suppose I am used to it, but I think it's more than that. I have always ridden a bicycle since I learned ride at age 5 or 6.  For most of the 1980's and 1990's I didn't own a car. So I either rode my bike or I rode the bus. I preferred the bike over using public transit. There was a stretch of about 6 or 7 years where I rode my bike summer and winter. When my kids were small I used to take them both on my bicycle with me. I had one child seat (purchased in Germany) mounted on the front of my bike and another behind me. I rode in traffic all the time, even downtown. It really didn't seem like a big deal to me.

I used my bike to go grocery shopping, and when I had my own business tuning & repairing pianos I often rode my bike to my appointments. I once carried a complete piano action home on my bike to work on it and then carried it back to put it back into the piano. I still like to use my bike to go shopping and run errands. I have baskets on the back of my bike that allow me to transport a fair size load. When I was in high school one of my friends and I would go for lengthy rides on summer evenings. We rode out to Bird's Hill Park; we rode to Lockport a few times and generally just explored the city for hours on end. My father often had me ride out to our church cemetery in Springstein , Manitoba to look after the flowers he had planted on my still-born sister's grave. The longest bicycle trip I ever took in one day was when I rode from my paternal grandparents' home in Hanover, Germany to my other grandparents' home in Hamburg, Germany; a total distance of somewhere between 180 and 190 kilometers. Come to think of it, I went on a lot of interesting and sometimes lengthy bike rides when I was in Germany in 1973/74. The wildest experience was making a wrong turn and ending up on the Autobahn (no bikes allowed). I actually did that twice. There were a lot of horns blaring at me until I found an exit to get off the motorway. In some ways it was an exhilarating experience. Although I've had some moments on the road that had my heart beating much faster than normal, riding in heavy traffic never bothered me.

There were a couple of years in the late 1990's where I didn't ride a bike because my bike had broken down from so much use and was no longer worth fixing. It was cheaper to buy a new bike. I had gotten a car which I needed for my work and I saw no point in buying a bicycle; until my kids came to visit me one summer. (They lived in Mississauga, Ontario with their mother from 1996 until 2001). Then I bought 3 bikes so we could go riding together. Last summer I only went bike riding once. I had injured my knee and the one time I went for a ride I didn't think I was going to make it home. Turns out I had torn cartilage in my knee and I spent most of the summer and early fall on crutches. My knee has healed up and now I ride my bike again.

When I was younger I didn't worry about traffic - I just rode! I still don't worry about traffic but am far more cautious and aware of what vehicles are doing around me. I shake my head at the rants by cyclists and motorists that are often in the newspaper. Some people go so far as to say that bicycles shouldn't be allowed on the road. Some cyclists complain that motorists are a menace. I think everyone should take a hard look at themselves and what they are doing.

I ride differently than I did when I was younger. Physically I am very out of shape so I don't tear along the street as fast as I can go. I also have a healthier respect for the risks of riding my bike on busy roads. When I ride I focus on what's going on around me. I don't listen to music. I try to anticipate what other people on the road are going to do. In my experience I find most motorists are courteous and respectful and give me room. I try to be courteous and respectful in return. Occasionally I share the road with people who don't seem to have a clue about anything around them, They just seem to be on auto-pilot, their minds somewhere else. I simply try to stay out of their way and watch that they don't cut me off or run me off the road. Every once in a while I have to deal with a motorist that is just nasty. They're often road hogs who deliberately leave me no room on the road. I just let them go. Even if I catch up to them at a traffic light I stay behind them. If I'm patient enough they will soon be so far ahead of me that I no longer have to deal with them. I have used the sidewalk when there were too many potholes in the narrow space motor vehicles allow me on the road but I try to keep that to a minimum. I strive to stay calm and  relaxed but I have to confess that the occasional colourful word does get past my teeth and lips. But I don't yell or make rude gestures at motorists. That's just dumb! And it could result in some undesirable consequences.

Maybe I've gotten a little wiser as I have gotten older.