Saturday, March 31, 2012

Just Do It!

How's my mental health today?

Better than my body feels.

My body is not happy that I'm subjecting it to unaccustomed activity. Adding an exercise routine to a damaged rotator cuff, a 16 year old back injury, torn knee cartilage, and a high ankle sprain has not gone over well. On Thursday evening we were given a tour of the Reh-Fit centre which included the 'how-tos' of some of the equipment.

Heidi and I had walked a couple of laps before the orientation, just to loosen up a bit, but the unduly long tour (the very friendly staff person was far too chatty) negated that. I felt my back seize up and my sprained ankle began throbbing beyond the point of mere discomfort. I excused myself from the verbal outpouring and started moving again, but it was too late. The muscles had gotten too cold and tight to continue.

When we got home that night I told Heidi that I should probably give my body a break the next day (yesterday) and she thought that was probably a good thing to do. However, when yesterday came along, I found I needed to move around in between the long sessions of sitting at my computer and writing, so I began to do a few stretches  every once in a while. When that went well, I decided to do a tour of our building - walking the hallways and using the stairs to get from one floor to another. I managed to work my way up to the eighth floor, then down to the second floor and back up to our floor. I even rode the stationary bike for a little while. I managed all that without any major complaints from my body. What a relief that was!

Today will involve some different physical activity. Heidi and I are taking Lora over to my youngest brother's home so that Lora gets a chance to spend a little time with her youngest (3 yrs old) cousin, Hudson, before she leaves for South Africa for 5 months. Hudson loves to play hockey, almost non-stop. I'm not sure Hudson will let me join in, he doesn't like beards and he usually gives me a very wide berth. We'll see what transpires today. Even if I don't play a little ball hockey, I'll get some exercise in because I agreed to help Lora move the stuff she's not taking along to Africa into her storage locker. Although I told her I would only drive; she and her friends could do the lifting, I know from past experience that I'll likely lend a hand, just to speed things up.

After we're done moving Lora's stuff Heidi and I will probably head to the gym again to walk the track for a few Kilometers. We're doing it! This exercise thing is quickly becoming a major activity in our lives.

I have to make sure I still have enough time for reading and writing!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Dancing Dinosaurs Verboten

How's my mental health today?

Not bad, but the sun is welcome to put in an appearance any time now. I know my in-laws are relieved that their fields are getting some moisture, but these dreary wet days are not very beneficial for people like me who are living with depression.

Nevertheless, life goes on.

An article in the newspaper caught my attention and has me wondering which reality some people are living in. The headline read, "Dinosaurs, Halloween, banned from tests."

Apparently schools in New York City have been given a list of words they may no longer use on city-issued tests.

Dinosaurs, birthdays, dancing, and Halloween are verboten because they "could evoke unpleasant emotions in students". (So what happens to Barney?) Terrorism and slavery are too "scary". Don't mention diseases because students might have a family member that is ill. Divorce is out of the question because students might have family members that are separated or divorced. Don’t mention wealth because students might become jealous; poverty is also a no-no. The theory seems to be that by removing these words from tests students will “be able to complete their tests without distraction”.

I don’t understand this. Is the intent to train and educate the kids to live in a bubble? What are we doing to our kids? How far are we going to go to shelter them from the realities of this world we live in? What is it going to take to wake people up to realize that protecting our kids’ sensitivities will only cripple them in the long run? What happens when the kids become adults? Who’s going to protect their sensibilities then? Who’s going to counsel them when their sheltered sensitivities are suddenly traumatized by the realities of life?

Who comes up with these ideas? Are they going to be there to help all these sensitive souls come to grips with the sudden assault on their emotions when they have to step out of their bubble? Are we training our kids to live in a grand delusion?

If we fail to train our kids to function well in the real world, how are they ever going to train our grandchildren? What kind of price are our grandchildren and their children going to pay for our society’s refusal to let our kids learn to deal with all the stuff life will throw at them? Whatever will become of them?

What nonsense are we going to read about next?

Maybe you noticed – stories like this set me off.  I better stop this rant; it’s causing my blood pressure to go up! 

Wallow too much in sensitivity 
and you can't deal with life, or the truth. 
 - Neal Boortz

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A New Challenge

How’s my mental health today?

I’m not sure.  It’s the morning after our first workout at the Reh-Fit Centre.  I got up early to lead Heidi through the functional fitness routine we had started to do six years ago. The stretches should help us bounce back from yesterday’s exertions – I hope. One thing I need to do is get some rest today. The lack of a good, long, deep sleep is wearing on me so I'm going to keep it very short  today.

Yesterday I noticed a friend had posted a new challenge on her Blog for the month of April.  The challenge is to post every day except Sundays during this month.  And to up the bar you need to blog thematically from A to Z.  Starting April First with a topic themed on something starting with the letter A, then on April second another topic with the letter B, and so on until April thirtieth when you finish with a theme beginning with the letter Z

That could be interesting; I‘m going to give it a shot. My mind is already churning with some ideas. The fun part for me will be connecting these alphabetic themes to my daily mental health question. 

“Challenges make you discover things about yourself
that you never really knew. They're what make the instrument stretch
-what make you go beyond the norm.”
~~ Source: Unknown

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Time for Reh-Fit

How's my mental health today?

I don't have time to think about it. My schedule for today is much busier than usual with meetings, doing a volunteer stint that my sister arranged, running a few errands, buying some good quality walking shoes and then picking up Heidi after work and heading out to the gym for our newly arranged exercise plan.

Heidi had a series of pre-surgery appointments yesterday, and her anesthetist referred her to the Kinsmen Reh-Fit Center.  We went there for a tour after Heidi was done work and decided to sign up for a year. With the money we invested we absolutely need to discipline ourselves to go there at least 4 times a week, if not more. If we don't, we'll have wasted a lot of money.

Getting a membership at the Reh-Fit Centre is a lot more complicated than just signing up for a membership at a gym. We had to fill out medical forms and meet with a nurse. Over the next couple of months they want to put us through an orientation session, a stress test, get blood work done, meet with a nutritionist, and be assessed by a physiotherapist; all for the purpose of tailoring a personal exercise plan and nutritional strategy for both of us.

Heidi has been talking about the need for us to get serious about losing weight and improving our health for a few years now. I guess we just got serious about it (at least from a financial commitment perspective). Now we need to develop new habits of eating and exercising to take advantage of the opportunity.

According to Heidi, I may find an additional benefit to this new regimen; namely that of sleeping better. Monday night was another mostly sleepless night. I gave up trying to sleep at 2 a.m. and sat down at my computer to write. It was a very productive night, but my energy faded quickly through the day. Maybe a structured regular exercise routine will help with my sleep patterns - it certainly can't hurt.

What remains to be seen is whether or not Heidi and I can stick to this new venture long enough for it to become a habitual part of our day. We'll be adding that concern to our daily prayer lists.

"The unfortunate thing about this world is that good habits 
are so much easier to give up than bad ones." 
~~ William Somerset Maugham

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


How's my mental health today?

I'm feeling quite peaceful at the moment.

That's  actually a bit of a surprise to me because of a mistake I made yesterday. After having had a very restful sleep, including going back to bed after being up for about half an hour at 6:30 a.m., I started organizing files and documents as I prepared to focus on the next two projects on my to-do list. I moved files around, deleted some very old files that I didn't want anymore and reworked the filing system for my 'writing projects' files.

Heidi called and asked me to bring her some stuff she wanted to use at work, so I popped out for that little errand.

When I got back, I resumed my document sorting. I managed to pull together materials that I wanted to use later in the afternoon when I was going to continue working on a document I had started putting together last week. As I sifted through pages of hand written notes I entered them into documents and added them to my "writing stuff" file.

In the midst of that I received several emails from my daughter. I had been working on her tax return but she failed to provide me with some critical information. Some of it arrived in the emails but it took several more exchanges between us before I had everything I needed to complete the taxes. My daughter is leaving for South Africa in a week and it's imperative that her tax return is submitted before she leaves because she will be gone for five months and the refund she is due will certainly improve the health of her finances. I finished and called her with the results, teasing her a bit (because that's what dads do) before I gave her the good news.

I decided it was a good time to take a break from sitting at my computer, so I took out my bicycle and rode over to see my friend Dave Gooch at Gooch's Bicycle and Hobby shop. I left the bike there for its annual spring tuneup, chatted with Dave for a while and then went for a short walk before heading home. (Dave, do I get a discount for the free advertising?)

Then it was back to work on my computer. I opened the document I wanted to work on and discovered I had lost about 120 pages of previous work. I dug around in all my files to see if I could find a back up copy that might contain the missing pages, but was unsuccessful.

An "Oops" situation like this would have been calamitous at one time, but I seem to be more relaxed now. After muttering a very minor "expletive deletive", I started the task of rebuilding the document. After all, at least I didn't lose the whole document and wasting time and energy angrily fretting about it was not going magically bring the document back.

I just have to make sure I don't let this little incident push me back into the obsessive habit of creating a ridiculous number of back-up copies. I'm still trying to clean up my files after many years of anxiety-driven multiple back-up files.

So where did the affable response come from? I don't know, maybe the violin and cello music I was listening to helped. That stuff relaxed me so much that I almost fell asleep.

Hopefully there will be no"Oops!" moments today.

Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change - this is the rhythm of living. Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope. And out of hope, progress.
~~ Bruce Barton

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Not That Complicated!

How's my mental health today?

I don't know. Once again I'm trying to overcome my sleep challenges. Even when I'm exhausted sleep eludes me. I've got to find a way of getting more rest.

It's the start of a new week and since I finished one project this past weekend I can begin to focus on the next one. The important thing for me to keep in mind is to keep it simple.

Last week I got all caught up in the who, what, why, and how behind the Rosary I received - so much so that I blogged about it and spent a fair bit of time surfing the Web trying to find answers. Yesterday a friend at church startled me with the simplicity of his statement to me. When I told him my question, "why would a Carmelite monastery send this Mennonite boy a Rosary", he replied, "You're supposed to pray."

Now why didn't I think of that!

I was so busy asking questions and researching that I missed the obvious. Pray!

I do that so often - I get caught up in questions or ideas and lose sight of simplicity as my creative mind takes me on a wonderfully spinning ride. The problem with that is that everything, especially projects I'm working on, becomes larger and more elaborate and progress grinds to a halt.

So my goal for this week: simplify, simplify, simplify.

Now that I have established my goal, it's time for a nap - can't get simpler than that.

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.  
~Leonardo DaVinci

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Soar With Your Strengths

How's my mental health today?

I'm doing quite well, especially since I've finished off a couple of smaller projects. Finally; completing something makes the to-do list seem less onerous.

I've started reading another book. The book, Soar With Your Strengths, by Donald O.Clifton & Paula Nelson, was recommended at the Monk's Retreat I was at about a month ago. The recommendation arose in response to some of our discussion. While the book is not new, (it was first published in 1992), the message is still very relevant.

I had ordered the book several weeks ago, and while waiting for it to arrive, I found a well written summary of the book on the Internet.

The primary message of the book is that we need to stop focusing so much on our weaknesses, failures, or shortcomings and spend so much time, energy and resources trying to fix them. Instead, the authors maintain that we can have far better results if we shift our attention to our strengths, what we do well, and build on those things. The  book is written from a business perspective, but I believe its truths are applicable in most areas of life.

When I worked in mental health, there was a strong push to change the way business was done in the field. Traditionally, services were developed to manage people's illnesses, their deficits, and their deviancy. Now efforts were being made to examine people's strengths first, to identify them, develop them and harness them to help them rebuild their lives in a way that allowed them to find new meaning, purpose, and hope. As people utilized their strengths, their weaknesses (or deficits) became a secondary issue. People grew stronger, healthier, and more confident, and with this new strength, confidence and better health, they were able to develop strategies to gain control over those areas that used to consume them.

The belief that "I can recover and participate fully in community" was a much more successful treatment and service vision, than the old institutional mantra of "we need to manage your symptoms and control your behaviour".

My faith life focus is just as critical, if not more so. If the only vision I have for myself is to work at fixing my problems, boring in on repairing my failures, and strengthening my weaknesses, I will have a challenge when it comes to trying to have a positive impact on other people's lives.

I will never forget one very passionate, energetic and fervent man at a church I attended about 20 years ago. He had an incredible enthusiasm for studying scripture and teaching others. He was a nice guy, very encouraging and supportive in many ways, and if he was able to help someone out, there was no hesitation. Sadly, the thing that sticks most in my memory of this man is his preoccupation with what "wretched worms" we all were. Over and over again; every time he preached on Sunday mornings, every Bible study he led, he always spouted this business of our wretchedness, our worthlessness, and our worm-like state of being. His point; how incredible God's grace was that he deigned to send his Son to pay the penalty of sin for us tended to get overwhelmed by the images of all these "wretched worms".

God's amazing grace is worth remembering and being thankful for. What didn't come across was how God valued us; how he adopted us as his children; how he poured his grace and love into us so that we could pour that into others.

I want to build my strengths and in doing so begin to manage my weaknesses. I look forward to reading what Clifton & Nelson have to say to me.

When we focus on a weakness, it takes on a life of its own
 and begins to smother our strengths. We start to feel sorry
for someone's weakness and offer pity and philosophical advice... 
But focusing on failures will only make the person feel worse 
and neglect his or her strengths. The greatest chance for success
lies in reminding people or organizations of an existing strength,
and getting them back on track while instituting a management 
strategy for the weaknesses.
~~ Clifton & Nelson

Saturday, March 24, 2012

A St. Therese Rosary For This Mennonite Boy?

How is my mental health today?

I'm very puzzled.

When I picked up our mail yesterday I found a Safeway Flyer, a page of Burger King coupons, and a very small package from the Monastery of Mount Carmel in Niagara Falls, Ontario addressed to me. This is the second time I've received mail from this monastery.

It's a mystery. Where did they get my name and address from? How did they get it? I've never corresponded with them; I've never visited with them; in fact, I never heard of them before I received the first mailing from them. I don't recall what was in the package the first time - I think I just tossed it in the garbage.

This time I looked at the package more closely. Right above my name was the statement, "Your Little Flower Rosary is Enclosed."

What??? Why is a Carmelite Monastery sending this Mennonite boy a Rosary?

As I was perusing the contents of my package the telephone rang. It was Heidi asking about my dinner plans / preparations. We clarified the arrangements and then I told her about this "gift" I had received. While I expressed my bewilderment, Heidi's response was, "That's Cool! You didn't throw it away did you?"

When I raised the question of how and why I had been sent this package Heidi told me I should write the Carmelites a letter. I`m not going to do that - I`ll blog about it instead.

I know Heidi doesn't like it when the Catholic Church is being bashed, so I'll be careful to avoid doing that. But I do have some questions. Heidi asked me if this was another situation where we will agree to disagree; it's not about agree or disagree, I'm just questioning things that I'm reading that don't fit with my understanding of scripture. So...

First of all, I wonder how I got on the monasteries mailing list. Along with the "gift", I also received a request for a donation to (and I quote), "spread the heavenly message of St. Therese and support the good works of Carmelites around the world."

Now, I have no problem being asked to support any one's good works but I'm curious about what they mean with the reference to 'the heavenly message of St Therese'. Why do I need more of a heavenly message than I can find in scripture? Is St. Therese communicating or teaching something in addition to what's taught in the Bible? If yes, how does that fit with the admonitions in both the Old Testament and the New Testament not to add to, or delete anything from what's already been written? If it's not something extra, what exactly is this 'heavenly message of St Therese'?

The back of the donation slip provides me with space to list personal intentions, loved ones and friends that I want to entrust to the "heavenly protection of St Therese". That just does not fit with my study and understanding of scripture. When I want heavenly protection for anyone or anything I pray directly to God in the Name of Christ.

I am completely clueless when it comes to praying the Rosary. I can understand the use of some kind of tool to help focus my prayer, but praying the Rosary seems to be a very specific process that doesn't fit for me. I did a little on-line research, and probably need to do more, but the detailed prayers I found laid out for the Rosary are not something I'm comfortable with, nor do they help me feel closer to God. I know many people find it meaningful and helpful and that's great. I'll stick to what works for me.

So what will I do with this Rosary and the 'personalized' carrying case that came with it? I'm not sure. I'll hang on to it for the time being. Maybe I'll take it along to the next Soul Sanctuary Monk's Retreat (seriously, no sarcasm intended). In the meantime, I think I'll try to arrange a coffee meeting with a friend who just happens to be a Franciscan Priest - maybe he can answer some of my questions.

Faith and prayer are the vitamins of the soul;
man cannot live in health without them.
~~ Mahalia Jackson

Friday, March 23, 2012

It's Friday & Spring is Here!

How's my mental health today?

With beautiful spring weather like we are getting my mental health is getting a huge boost. The sunshine, the unseasonably warm temperatures, and the many sounds of spring are always welcome. Birds chirping, people raking their lawns, the occasional motorcycle; all sounds we don't usually hear in March. Looking out our balcony doors at the trees, I noticed the leaves look like they are starting to bud. Heidi planted some herbs a few weeks ago and seems to be itching to get the balcony prepared for her container garden.

The dreaded spring cleaning can't be far behind.

I would have liked to spend more time outside yesterday, but I needed to get some things done around the apartment. The most important job was to put all my computer peripherals, as well as my laptop computer back into the office. There were also many piles of paper on the dining room table.

How does that always happen?

I organize my office; making sure that all the equipment is in its proper space, and the papers are stacked where I can easily find them; and next thing I know, my stuff is all over the living room and dining room again.

Good thing we have people over occasionally or the mess would grow unabated. That's actually not true. Heidi intervenes fairly regularly and points out that my stuff is spreading out too far again. So it was Wednesday evening; Heidi reminded me that I had guests coming for lunch on Friday and the place needed cleaning up.

That took care of a good part of my day yesterday. Now everything is ready for the weekly meeting of the unemployed and under employed Peters siblings. This time we're having a lunch meeting. I prepared the Reuben Casserole (lots of Sauerkraut, Corned beef, and onions - I'm glad my siblings won't be hanging around too long; it could get nasty) last night so all I have to do this morning is shove it in the oven and put the coffee on.

Afterwards, I'm going to go for a bike ride; I want to go enjoy the spring air as much as I can, just in case winter decides it is not finished with us yet.

I think it's a great way to finish off the week!

Weekends are a bit like rainbows; they look good from a distance 
but disappear when you get up close to them.
~ John Shirley

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What's Important?

How's my mental health today?

I can't complain. My day is starting with a therapeutic massage. I'm enjoying the early spring. Things are very good. Today will be a little different because our pastor has asked us to pray and fast. I can do that.

I had a good start to the day yesterday. I woke up with more energy than I've had in a while. Since it was Wednesday, I was up by 5 a.m. to meet with "The Band of Brothers" for our usual Bible study over coffee at Tim Horton's.

When I got home I dragged my bicycle off our balcony, cleaned the winter dust and dirt from it, scoured the rust off the chrome, and pumped up the tires. After a short break to do some reading, I got on the bike and rode to my doctor's appointment. My first real bike ride of this year! Riding outside is different than riding the stationary bike.

When I got in to see the doc I told him my concerns. He jokingly told me he had already read my blog and he had thought of telling me I didn't need to talk because he was caught up with what was happening for me. It's great to have that kind of relationship with my psychiatrist; it makes working together much easier.

The result of the appointment: I will increase the dosage of the new medication that I started  taking when my diagnosis was changed to bi-polar disorder. The dosage has been increased slowly and it may take a few more gradual increases to find the effective therapeutic level for me. The goal is still to level out the up and down cycling of my energy and mood without flattening my ability to think and be creative.

"The process takes time". That's what I told a friend who called me Tuesday evening looking for answers. His wife was diagnosed 18 months ago, and the realities and complexities of her situation are still unfolding for them. Yesterday I was reminded to keep what I told my friend in mind for my own situation.

Sitting in the waiting room can feel awkward for me sometimes. I would prefer to be anonymous while I wait for my turn with the doc, but every once in a while I am recognized by people I encountered in the years I worked in mental health. Yesterday was one of those days. I walked in to find one of Heidi's former co-workers sitting there with a couple of her clients. After a quick exchange of smiles and greetings she and her clients got called in to see the doctor. After my appointment, as I was waiting to schedule my next appointment, I heard someone call my name. I turned around and there was a young man who had worked for me for a couple of months almost 10 years ago. After greeting me he asked what I was doing now.

I'm very reluctant to respond to that question in some cases. I have experienced individuals crossing my boundaries and this young fellow was one of those people. I told him I was writing and his response was very affirming. "You're good at that". Then he thanked me for taking a chance on him all those years ago because it gave him the opening he was looking for to get involved in the politics of the mental health world.

That was a pleasant surprise.

Maybe it's a good idea for me to tell a few people what I'm doing because there are apparently some rumours about my fate circulating in the community. Heidi has told me a few times that she's heard that some people have spread the rumour that I'm seriously ill; others are convinced that I've died. I just shake my head - where do people come up with these ideas?

In the end it doesn't matter. Those that are important to me know the truth. I'm alive, dealing with whatever life throws at me, and enjoying my family, friends, writing, and faith journey. God is faithful (more than I am) and He's looking after me.

My job today:  fast and pray!

Do you have a hunger for God? If we don't feel strong desires for the manifestation of the glory of God, it is not because we have drunk deeply and are satisfied. It is because we have nibbled so long at the table of the world. Our soul is stuffed with small things, and there is no room for the great. If we are full of what the world offers, then perhaps a fast might express, or even increase, our soul's appetite for God. Between the dangers of self-denial and self-indulgence is the path of pleasant pain called fasting.

John Piper

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Timely Appointment

How's my mental health today?

I'll be discussing that with my psychiatrist this morning.

Yesterday had a weird feel to it.

The weeks of irregular and insufficient sleep caught up with me. I got up early (6ish), sat down to check my email and realized I had no connection to the Internet. I didn't have the energy to deal with it so I went back to bed. I woke up again about 3 hours later and fired up the computer again. Still no Internet.

I shut down the computer and unplugged my modem and wireless router. I came back to it fifteen minutes later and plugged everything back in. When all the lights on the modem and router were glowing in the right colours I started my computer back up again. Success! I now had Internet. I quickly dealt with my email; then dragged myself back to bed. I had no energy.

When I woke up, more than 5 hours had passed. I still felt exhausted, but I got up and pushed myself to get something done.

I got busy with a few domestic tasks, then I finished our taxes and e-filed them. I went back to the computer and opened a document I had started a few days ago and did a little more work on it.

I spent some time reading; meditating and praying, and then crawled back into bed.

I need to talk to my doc. I have to make a critical decision. I know that the more I immerse myself in creative activities, such as my writing, the more I leave myself open to the mood cycles of bi-polar disorder. If I take too much medication, my creative process gets blocked.

I find I'm loving this writing business. I don't want to stop. I also don't want to go off the deep end. Where do I find the balance between the health risks of my creativity and stable mental health?

It's a good thing I had an appointment scheduled for this morning. I didn't know how much I would need it when I booked the appointment more than two months ago.

And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. 
 - Sylvia Plath

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Who's In Control?

How`s my mental health today?

Ask me later in the day.

Yesterday Heidi and I were once again reminded that there is someone much greater and powerful than ourselves looking out for us.

We've known for a while that our car was approaching its doom rapidly. Late last week I noticed that our Toyota was having some steering issues so I booked an appointment at the service garage for first thing Monday morning.

I dropped the car off and walked home (a little exercise to start the day). When I got home I decided it was time to start working on our income taxes. I pulled all the necessary papers together, installed the new software on my computer, and began entering data.

Less than an hour after beginning work on the taxes the telephone rang. It was the garage.

"It's time to buy a different car."

That was not what I wanted to hear. The service technician started listing the problems and told me it was going to cost more than I could get out of the car. He hadn't done any  specific research into costs so I asked him to do some digging and provide me with some concrete numbers and call me back.

I turned back to our taxes. I completed them as best I could (we're still waiting for one receipt from our bank). The numbers looked very good - in fact they were good enough for us to buy another car. I called Heidi at work but she didn't answer so I left a message.

Two weeks ago Heidi told me her son Kent had told her he wanted to buy himself a truck again, and he was thinking he would sell us his car when ours died. I called him on his cellphone but had to leave another message.

Heidi was the first to call back. I told her the news from the garage, the results of my tax calculations, and that I was waiting for a phone call from Kent. We both remarked on how things work out for us so often. A need comes up and the resources to fill the need appear at almost the same time. God is looking after us.

I called the garage back, got the little bit of cost information they had nailed down and told them to forget it - I'd pick the car up later in the afternoon. Kent returned my call shortly after that.

Bottom line:
  • Our Toyota is on its very last legs.
  • Kent has a line on a truck.
  • We have money coming to us from our Government.
  • We may have a newer, more mechanically sound car within a week.
This wasn't how we had envisioned the start of this week - but we have no choice but to go with it. We just keep giving everything to God and let him carry us through.

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Monday, March 19, 2012

We're Blessed - Our Kids have Grown Up!

How's my mental health today?

I'm hoping today will be a little quieter because I'm starting to spin too fast again.

So much is going on!

My daughter Lora showed up at our place yesterday afternoon with a huge smile on her face. She had her passport in her hand, opened it up and revealed the fact that she had received her Visa to go study in South Africa.

My first born is going far away - halfway around the globe! For 5 months!!!

She is so excited she's almost vibrating. She will be leaving early in the morning on April 3 to attend a Youth With A Mission training program in Worcester, South Africa. The program includes an Outreach component, and Lora recently learned that she will be going to London, England during the Olympics for this outreach activity.

What an incredible opportunity for her. Heidi and I are happy and thankful that so many people have stepped up to make this happen for Lora.

We had a great visit with Lora. In fact, we had a great visit with all of our kids (except our son-in-law who couldn't come over because he was working on an assignment for one of his courses at University).

Among many other topics, we talked about some of my blog posts. The two girls follow my blog regularly, although Jenny has fallen a bit behind because she's so very busy with Law School and work. I find it interesting to observe the different responses. Lora either laughs boisterously at my posts or shakes her head and utters, "Oh Papa." Jenny, being a critical - thinking law student, questions, challenges, and debates. I love the dialogue and really appreciated when she pointed out where I failed to communicate my point clearly enough. Kent quickly read a couple of the posts on  my computer so he knew what we were talking about, but didn't comment on those posts - that's just who Kent is. He and I are able to communicate on other things. Neil, the youngest of the bunch, came late. In fact I picked him up off the street when I was driving Lora home. Neil was just walking home from work when Lora spotted him, so I circled around, drove up behind him and leaned on the car horn to get his attention. He got in the car and after I dropped Lora off I brought him to our place for some supper. Neil doesn't read much, but I showed him yesterday's post. He read through it slowly, bursting out in laughter a few times. Neil too, has his own way of communicating, and his own interests and perspectives. He and I had a great chat when I drove him back to his apartment.

Our kids are grown up. They have their own homes, their own lives, their own interests.

We are blessed every time we get together with any of them. The relationship dynamics are wonderfully evolved. Sunday afternoons and evenings are the highlight of the week for us, because that's when they all come visit over a meal. We spend time together, hear what is going on in their lives and share what is happening in ours. It is a truly special time.

Then they they go back too their own homes.

Our kids have grown up and we are richly blessed.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Do I Laugh or Do I Cry?

How's my mental health today?

It's Sunday - I'm trying to relax and prepare for the coming week.

Yesterday evening I was searching through my binders of CDs looking for music discs that I had misfiled. I came across a stack of CD ROMs that I had used to back up my files years ago. Some of the disks files were more than 10 years old. I even found a few of the cartoons I used to use to make a point in the mental health workshops I presented. One workshop stands out in my memory - I had been asked to share a bit of my story, and I used a number of these cartoons in a PowerPoint show during my talk. One participant told me afterwards that she didn't know whether she should laugh or cry.

Since I ranted about things mental health several days ago, I thought now would be a good time to share a few of these "borrowed" gems.

When you live with a mental illness, you never know what you're going to encounter:

  • Sometimes, it feels like others dismiss or severely minimize your experience and your pain.


  • Or you get the feeling you've been written off.


  • One of the worst feelings is when you feel you've been stripped of your dignity.

  • Accessing the right service can be a challenge!

  • Some of the directions you get are hard to follow.

  • Some treatment programs and approaches can strike you as being somewhat odd.

  • Program cuts and cost-cutting measures often exact a high price on the patient.

  • Some treatment decisions weren't necessarily thought thru enough. (Some unexpected consequences).

  • I once ( almost 10 years ago) had my medication side-effects concerns dismissed by my Doc. So I stopped taking them and four weeks later I was in hospital.

  • Some things weren't as helpful as they appeared at first glance.

  • Patients could be a little resistant at times.

  • The "poor me" card was played far too often.

  • "Helpers" face many challenges.

  • A lot of Docs I know thought this was funny. One in particular felt insulted. I think it's hilarious!

  • Recovery is hard work.
  • Clarity can be evasive.

  • The tough stuff never seems to take a holiday.

  • Was that a shot?

Recovery Does Happen!

  • I suggested to Heidi that we should use this cartoon on our wedding invitations. She wouldn't go for it. : (

Saturday, March 17, 2012

All Things Work For Good

How's my mental health today?

This surprisingly early warm and sunny spring weather certainly gives me a boost.

As I've mentioned before, my time is currently spent juggling 6 major projects, one of which is digitizing a stack of old LPs. The ones I'm working on first are from Heidi's parents (I'm burning the music onto CDs for them). The heritage that Heidi and I share has been an ongoing revelation for us. It is remarkable was how much similarity Heidi and I find in the things we grew up with, including music. This became especially apparent with my conversion of the first 7 or 8 records we got from Heidi's parents. They were recordings of German hymns, Folkmusic, children's songs and classical choral works. Almost all of the music from my in-laws albums was familiar to me; it was the same music that I had heard and sung in my parents' home and at church when I was growing up.

Heidi grew up in the Catholic church in a rural German community north of Winnipeg. Her father immigrated to Canada from Germany in 1953. Heidi's mother is first generation Canadian, but her roots lie in Germany too. My father, who grew up in Mennonite communities in the former West Prussia (now part of Poland), came to Canada in 1952. My mother, who was born in a Lutheran community in East Frisia (Northwestern part of Germany) came to Canada in 1953 and joined the Mennonite church after she and my father got married. 

The worlds of Catholics and Mennonites as we used to know them were separated by a vast, seemingly unbridgeable gulf. Since Heidi and I have been together, that gulf has almost completely vanished for us. Although we have some minor differences when it comes to matters of faith, we continue to be surprised at how much we have in common

We both grew up speaking only German at home and neither of us spoke or understood a word of English when we started school. We both have many relatives still living in Germany. Both of us have spent some time living in Germany in our early adulthood. We share common experiences and values. We both still understand and speak German. Heidi still reacts (occasionally quite startled) when I utter a German phrase that she remembers from her childhood.

Every once in a while our conversation will drift to what might have happened had we met twenty years earlier. It is a very pleasant dream to imagine having had twenty more years together. What might our lives have been like? We love our kids (from our first marriages) very much, but Heidi occasionally mentions how she wished the two of us could have had children together too.

Our relationship is blessed by the things we have in common; our faith, our cultural background, our first language, our values, and our musical heritage, our love of reading, and so much more.

The wistful dreams of what might of been, are only that. We are who we are because of our separate personal journeys along vastly different roads until our broken first marriages and our personal walks through the darkness of mental illness brought our paths together.

I believe it is the common experiences of overcoming pain and struggle that enriches our love for one another, our mutual respect, our marriage, our faith, and our hopes for the future.

Both of us went through times of screaming to God, "WHY?"

We have our answer now.

All things work together for good to those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose. 
Romans 8:28

Friday, March 16, 2012

"Has Anything Really Changed?"

How's my mental health today?

Ok, I think, except I felt like I was scrambling all day yesterday, and I'm hoping things will be a little more settled today. My biggest concern continues to be my difficulty getting a good sleep.

Yesterday was a day of catching up on a list of little tasks that I had been ignoring for a while. One of them involved getting a document and some image files together and sending them off just before the deadline expired. I'm glad that's off my to-do list.

As I continue to gather information, and review previously written documents I occasionally come across stuff I had forgotten about. I was scanning through a pile of paper and came across the first 11/2 pages of a speech I made at an Annual General Meeting of a Mental Health (Non-Government) Organization in Northern Manitoba in the spring of 2006. I'm not sure where the rest of the document is, but it doesn't really matter.

I had been asked to speak about my journey through the use of mental health services to building a career in the mental health system. As I looked over what I had written, the question of, "Has anything really changed?" came to mind.

In 1963 the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) published a report, More for the Mind: a Study of Psychiatric Services in Canada. In this report the writers stated:

In no other field, except perhaps leprosy, has there been as much confusion, misdirection and discrimination against the patient, as in mental illness...  Down through the ages, they have been estranged by society and cast out to wander in the wilderness. Mental illness, even today, is all too often considered a crime to be punished, a sin to be expiated, a possessing demon to be exorcised, a disgrace to be hushed up, a personality weakness to be deplored or a welfare problem to be handled as cheaply as possible.

In May of 2006 the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released their report Out of the Shadows at Last. This report presented the Committee's findings in their cross-country investigation of mental illness and mental health services. In the introduction, the writers pointed out that the more than 2000 personal stories they heard during the course of their investigation indicated that the 1963 CMHA statement continued to be true.

The Senate Committee's research is almost ten years old. As I observe the current trends and activities in the mental health world, I wonder how much, if anything, has changed. Has there been any progress? Has there been any regression?

In the late 1980s the Mental Health Division of Manitoba Health embarked on the journey of Mental Health Reform. The intention was to bring mental health services in Manitoba in line with current research based thought on optimal care and service approaches. The government began with a series of Vision documents and then initiated a number of pilot projects. One of the goals of Mental Health Reform was to develop non-institutional services in the community. Services and supports that would be available to people much closer to where they lived and worked. The visionary rhetoric spoke of a comprehensive, seamless system of mental health care services.

We never got there.

In 1999 I was a participant in a conference hosted by Manitoba Health and one of the consultants brought in from Vermont made the statement that Manitoba produced some of the best Mental Health reform Vision documents he had ever seen. Unfortunately, Manitoba was not very good at implementing the changes required to realize the vision. A director of mental health services at one the the Regional Health Authorities got to his feet and informed everyone that as far as the Regional Health Authorities were concerned, mental health reform was finished.

Finished? There didn't seem to be much more than the continued funding of pilot projects in existence. How did that complete the job?

In 2001 or 2002 a new director of Director of the Mental Health program at Manitoba Health made the effort to move things forward again and initiated "Mental Health Renewal". After much consultation with various stakeholders new policies were prepared and adopted at Manitoba Health.

In 2006/07 the Federal Government established the Mental Health Commission of Canada, an entity tasked with developing a National Action Plan on Mental Health for our country. Since then the Commission has initiated a number of pilot projects across our nation.

But have there been permanent positive changes? I don't know - it's possible I suppose. I haven't been paying as much attention as when I worked in the system.

There are a few things that puzzle me and concern me.

Three or four years ago I was invited to sit on an advisory committee at our Provincial Psychiatric Hospital. It was an advisory body to the overseeing governance committee. In the first meeting I attended I pointed out that the governance structure and makeup failed to adhere to Manitoba Health Policy. Initially I got some looks from other committee members that seemed to suggest I had spoken in some foreign language. After a few clarification questions another committee member supported my statement. The committee chair decided that the way to proceed was to investigate how other Regional Mental Health Programs were complying with the policy. I believed then that nothing was going to change because as far as I knew, none of the Regional Health Authorities were in full compliance with government policy. (I eventually resigned from the committee, because after more than a year of meetings they still hadn't sorted out what their role should be, and the aggravation of bureaucratic time wasting was very detrimental to my mental health).

I know of no system or organization that has successfully implemented vision-based changes when major elements of that system or organization fail to comply with their own vision-based policies. Maybe there are some - I just don't know of any.

As long as the leaders and powers of the mental health system fail to fully implement the vision and policies of mental health reform and renewal, I fear it is impossible to arrive at the comprehensive, seamless service system that people with mental illness and their families require. People will continue to fall through the cracks. Avoidable tragedies will continue to occur.

Many things have changed, but too many problems still remain. 

What can we do? What can I do?

I'm not sure if I have the energy, endurance, or mental health stability to keep fighting for the changes we need. So do I just throw up my hands and hope someone else takes up the cause?

Where do I find a young, energetic, passionate rebel when I need one?

As long as our social order regards the good of institutions rather than the good of men, so long will there be a vocation for the rebel. 
– Richard Roberts

Thursday, March 15, 2012

"Do You Think..." ?

How's my mental health today?

I've been thinking about why mental health is an issue for me.

After my mother read some of my writing two weeks ago she asked me, "Do you think my being depressed while pregnant with you is the reason that you have a mental illness?"

What a question!

I never knew my mother had ever been depressed. Learning that she had been depressed while she was pregnant with me added a whole new layer to the question of why I struggle with my mental health.

As we talked, my mother told me that she would get up with my dad, make his lunch and eat breakfast with him. When my father left for work she crawled back into bed and spent hours there. She would get up in time to clean their apartment and prepare supper before my dad got home from work. But why was she depressed? After all,, she was a newlywed, expecting her first child - what did she have to be depressed about?

The reality was that she was isolated, with very few, if any, supports. She was alone, a new immigrant, separated from her family by half a continent and the Atlantic Ocean. She spoke no English, her husband didn't want her to work (she was a qualified pediatric nurse) and didn't like her going out anywhere while he was at work.

So was she depressed because she was isolated? Or because she was homesick for her family? Maybe it was because she couldn't work in the field she had trained in?  Was it psychological? Situational?

For those of us who have a personal connection with mental illness, be it as someone with a disorder, or a family member, or a mental health care provider, the questions of why and how are very familiar to us.

Some would have you believe that mental illness is because of sin, a lack of faith; that it's a sign of demonic presence. These people piss me off! They shouldn't be allowed to speak. While there may be a spiritual aspect or underlying cause to someone's mental health issues, it is absolutely essential to know the person, their history, and their culture before even thinking about making that kind of judgement. Eleven years ago I met a young woman who was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. She had a history of discontinuing her medications and experiencing psychosis in a fairly short time afterwards. This young lady was of Jewish background and lived with her mother and brother. Because of her history of med non-compliance and subsequent hospitalizations, her mother and brother monitored her use of medications very closely. She became a Christian and started attending a church where she was told that she did not have an illness; the voices she was hearing were of the devil. What she needed to do was renounce Satan in the name of Christ every time she heard these voices and Satan would have to leave her alone. Now she was put in a position of either obeying her mother  and brother and taking her meds as prescribed, or following what she was being told by the people "discipling" her at her church. (Imagine the inner conflict - her mother and brother were opposed to her conversion to Christianity - now she had to choose between lying to her family or her 'Christian mentors'). She chose to follow the direction given to her at church and pretended to take her medications; she threw them down the drain in the bathroom.  It didn't take long and this young woman had to be hospitalized involuntarily. It was five or six years ago before I saw her again and she had become an empty shell; barely able to communicate. She looked devastated and completely hopeless. I still get angry when I think about what happened to her. People who make judgements, and give direction and advice based on nothing more than their complete and absolute ignorance need to be put on a very short leash and permanently muzzled. (I actually had something much more severe in mind, but I restrained myself).

Excuse the rant!

Getting back to causes. There are so many studies and theories. There are the champions of the biological argument - but a strictly biological argument fails to explain why some people recover without medical and pharmaceutical intervention.

There is evidence to suggest a genetic component to mental disorders. I know that my maternal grandfather got severely depressed at times. One of my mother's sisters and one of her brothers struggled with depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. Her other brother has unbelievable anxiety and is also a very heavy consumer of alcohol. My mother had a cousin who was committed to a psychiatric institution, and her maternal grandfather committed suicide at the age of 87. Those are just the relatives I know about - there may be more.

Mental illness can also be caused by situational stressors, sociological issues, trauma, and lack of sunlight. A psychiatrist, Dr John Toews, presented an image of a cube inside a sphere to illustrate his theory of the cause(s) of mental illness. Each of the three visible sides of the cube had a one word label.  The three labels were 'biological', 'psychological', and 'social'. The cube was immersed in a sphere labelled 'spiritual'. It's a helpful image, but I think it fails to fully address the complexity of the issue.

I called my mother yesterday and asked more questions. I learned that the depression when she was pregnant with me began after Christmas and lifted in the spring (late April or early May). Maybe it was an episode of Seasonal Affective Disorder. Then she told me she went through another episode in the early 1970s. She said she just couldn't handle my dad's rages, his verbal assaults and physical beatings of his kids anymore.

She explained her question (regarding the cause of my illness) lay in the evidence that suggests that the fetus is affected and influenced by the mother's experiences during the pregnancy. We know many mothers sing and talk to their developing baby throughout the pregnancy. There is a story told of Mstislav (Slava) Leopoldovich Rostropovich, one of the best cellists of all time. His musical gift was supposedly influenced by his parents beginning when he was just a fetus. His mother was a concert pianist, his father a cellist - his mother's rehearsals supposedly impacted him to the point that piano was his first love. Even when he was a world renowned concert cellist, he would start learning a new cello work by playing it on the piano first. So is there an in utero influence that contributes to an individual developing a mental illness? I don't know. I've never researched that.

I've often wondered how much, if any, of what we label mental illness, such as depression and anxiety, is a learned response to stressors. If there is a generational pattern of anxiety and panic, or withdrawal into depression when subjected to the pressures of stress, I think it is reasonable to suggest that part of the response is learned behaviour. I don't know. But I do wonder about it.

What causes mental illness? Only God sees the whole picture and knows the true and complete answer.

For myself, I believe it's more important that I focus on how I respond to my illness rather than bogging down in finding cause.

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith but they are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the passion of Christ. 
~~ C. S. Lewis

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Framework of Questions

How's my mental health today?

I'm doing quite well, thank-you. My biggest challenge today is getting back into the discipline of writing.

We returned from our five night get-away yesterday afternoon. Although I had intended to do a fair bit of writing while we were gone, I did next to none. All I did was make a few notes on some ideas I had.

The problem?

Our cabin and its location just lent itself far too much to relaxation, reading, enough walking to say we had done some, soaking in the jacuzzi tub, sweating in the sauna, getting a massage, and eating and drinking stuff that filled out the list of pleasure. Most importantly, it was great for Heidi and I to spend time together in such a quiet, relaxing setting, far from everyday concerns and responsibilities.

It's a good thing our time was so relaxing. Getting there had been a bit of an adventure. We left on a day where we experienced some typical Manitoba winter weather - snow & blowing snow. I can tell I'm getting older; there was a time when driving in blizzard conditions was an exciting adventure and challenge. Now it was a bit nerve-wracking. Especially when visibility was zero - there were a few times where it was tough to see the front of the car. I don't think I've ever gone 30 km/hr in a 100 km/hr zone before, but that's what I had to do - all the while hoping that no one would pile into the back of us.

We said a prayer of thanks for the protection when we got to our destination.

Coming home, we drove in bright sunshine all the way - a much more enjoyable trip.

Now its time to get back to being productive. As I review my to-do list, I find 6 major projects that I've taken on in addition to the usual day to day tasks around home. Priorizing is key.

While  I didn't write much in the last week, I did a lot of thinking. This is very consistent with my usual process of addressing large tasks. I spend a fair bit of time in contemplation, and once the vision of what I'm going to do (write) is clear, I get at the project.

The most significant question I have been trying to answer for myself is about how much to disclose about my father and our relationship. It's about two weeks since my mother told me to write, and to write it all, but I wrestle with that. My father and I had arrived at some peace between us before he died. Do I open all those old wounds and volatile emotions again? Is there a way for me to tell the story, without disrespecting the man? Without dishonouring him? I have learned more things about him and his actions since he died which affect me - is it worth the pain to reveal that information? For what purpose? If I'm just writing to vent my emotions, is that not a primarily selfish motivation? Who am I writing for? What am I trying to communicate?

It's been suggested that I prepare an outline before I begin to write. I've never done that before and I find it a challenge. As one friend suggested, maybe I should use the difficult to answer questions as a framework for my outline.

It's worth a shot.

I never do a full outline, and if I did, I would not feel bound to it, because the view from inside a scene can be different from the view outside it. But neither do I just start writing and see what happens; I am far more disciplined than that.
~~ Piers Anthony

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nearer my God to Thee

A great song rendition to describe our time away.

Tomorrow I'll be back to write  again, maybe about our short vacation. Or maybe not.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Embellished Bach

This guy is very creative - taking a piece for solo cello and enriching it.

I convinced JS Bach would give this a standing ovation.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Somewhere over the Rainbow

How's my mental health today?

Good, I hope . Heidi and I are on our 4th day away. No internet, no phone service of any kind, no wireless, etc. Just a lot of nature and us.

So I prepared a few posts ahead of time  featuring some music I like. Hope you enjoy it too.

I'll be back live on Wednesday.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Friday, March 9, 2012

Mozart Revisited

How's my mental health today?

Good I assume. Heidi are on day 2 of 5 nights at a quiet couples resort.

No Phone, Internet, or Visitors! We try to get here once a year if we can. Heidi especially enjoys the deer that come up onto our cabin deck looking for handouts.

While we're away I put together some posts with music that I like.

Maybe you'll like it too.


Back next Wednesday.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Great Escape

How's my mental health today?

The cold is still clinging on, but it can't put a damper on the day.

We're heading off to our favorite couples only resort for 5 nights. Heidi had some vacation days left that she needed to use or they would be gone. So she scheduled the 4 days around a weekend so that she had 2 - 3 day weeks and we have a very long weekend away.

We like going in the winter. It's quiet, (it's located on the edge of a primarily summer resort town). Everything is white although with the mild winter we've had this year there are no guarantees. The cabin we rent backs up under a granite cliff, dotted with little pine trees. The cabin is surrounded by pines, usually weighed down with snow. There is a deck at the front and west side of the cabin. In past years deer have come up onto the deck to look into the living room window. The deer are so tame they instantly come to the door when they hear it being opened (hoping for handouts).

The cabin has a sauna, a large jacuzzi tub and electric fireplace (they used to have wood burning ones but changed to electric to bring down their insurance costs). There are also significant absences, such as telephone, Internet and wireless access. It's a chance to disconnect, relax, and enjoy each others company without any interruptions.

There are trails for walking, cross-country skiing, a park to stroll through and a very small resort town to walk to. It gets a little noisy in some places on the weekend because of all the snow mobiles, but they usually don't come anywhere near where we are.

Even though life is pretty simple and easy for us, it's still nice to get away.

I wonder who will win the most scrabble, cribbage, and Upwords games?

Although we'll be away, I've prepared and scheduled enough blog posts so there will be something new every day until we're back.

The ant is knowing and wise, but he doesn't know enough to take a vacation.
~~ Clarence Day

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Inspiration? Dedication? Passion?

How's my mental health today?

My mind has been in a bit of a fog since Sunday night when I came down with a nasty headcold that won't let go. It hasn't affected my mental health other than feeling exhausted. That's a radical shift from only getting 1 - 3 hours of sleep a night the previous 2-3 weeks. Now it's hard to wake up and feel alert.

All that makes writing a challenge. I'm having difficulty coming up with something to write about. When this happens I usually do 1 of 3 things; I sleep, or I read, or I surf the net looking for interesting stuff. Yesterday I did all 3.

While randomly browsing through Youtube I came across a moving story. A clip from the TV show "Korea has Talent" featured a shy young man who had come to sing. He had no formal music training; he had been dropped off at an orphanage at 3 years of age; he ran away at 5 years old after being beaten at the orphanage. He lived on the street for 10 years, selling gums and energy drinks, sleeping in stairwells and public washrooms. He got interested in music after hearing a singer at a nightclub where he was selling gums. He learned to sing  by observing and practicing.

His was a story that begged for a Hollywood ending. When he began to sing, the audience and judges were stunned, many people, including two judges, had tears running over their cheeks. The young man's operatic baritone voice filled the hall. One of the judges told him she was going to help him get voice lessons, regardless of how he fared in the ongoing competition.

As I watched this video, I began thinking about where and how people discover their inspiration, their passion, and their dedication to make something of their passion and gifts. I remember being part of a male choir 20 some years ago. We choristers were all amateurs and the director, who had a PH.D. in music, had been in the music profession for decades. The choir had been gathered for a weekend to record music for Christian radio broadcasts. I don't remember many details from that weekend, but one incident stands out clearly. The circumstances are beyond my recall, but I remember the director saying to us that we (choristers) were more musically talented than he was. The difference was that he loved music more than we did!

So where does that passion-driven living come from?

I have a talent for many things. Do I lack the life driving passion to achieve something with my talents? Does my history of mental illness bear the primary blame for my limited and short-lived successes? Where do I find the consistent energy required to maintain the level of discipline to realize my potential? I need to figure this out if I want to continue to consistently and successfully develop my writing skills.

I have friends and family that provide me with a lot of support and encouragement. Now I need to dig deep within myself to overcome my mental health and physical health challenges. The young Korean man had some intonation difficulties, but his passion pushes him to continually improve. I'm having fun with writing - will I be able to push myself forward when I experience days where it's not so much fun?

I'm pushing through a cold that has my eyes watering and my head feeling like it's filled with cotton to write this post. Maybe that's a positive indicator.

It is a fact often observed, that men have written good verses under the inspiration of passion, who cannot write well under other circumstances.
~~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Music Therapy

How's my mental health today?

Almost three weeks of very little sleep have caught up to me. My mind has slowed down, I'm physically tired and my energy level is very low. My mood though, seems to be OK.

I haven't done much today other than a little bit of reading, resting, meditating and listening to music.

Once again, I searched for musicians that did very creative things with traditional, well known music. I found a string quartet who call themselves String Fever. I like their "History of Music in Five Minutes"

Then I found a quartet of heavy metal cellists calling themselves Apocalyptica.

And Andre Rieu with something new and different:

Not sure Vivaldi counted on this:

I could go on and on, but if I do my mind will start racing again with nonstop music getting out of control. I know right now I have more energy than when I started an hour ago - music does that to me. Sometimes it can push me a little too high but when the music is good, I don't mind too much.

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons.  
You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body. 
– Oliver Wendell Holmes

Monday, March 5, 2012


How's my mental health today?

It's irrelevant when placed beside the plight of the victims of the international slave trade and sex trade. We saw the documentary, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls screened at our church yesterday. It was disturbing, infuriating, and heart-rending to see and hear the stories of victims around the globe. I knew this business was happening - just not to what extent.

The documentary is important - awareness of this criminal activity is essential to put a halt to it. According to the information presented, the international sex slave industry is only second to the international drug trade in scope and money generated. It is expected that this slave trade will soon surpass the drug trade in its monetary value to organized crime.

Scary thought. What's even more frightening is knowing that it is happening in our own city, we just don't know to what extent.

The film is being screened at the University of Winnipeg today and at the University of Manitoba tomorrow. An additional screening has been added at the Soul Sanctuary Fort Richmond Campus tomorrow evening.

The screenings are at:
  1. Monday, March 5th – 12.30pm-2:00pm | University of Winnipeg – Bulman Centre Multi-Puropse Room – 515 Portage Avenue.
  2. Tuesday, March 6th – 12pm – 2pm | University of Manitoba – University Centre Multi-Purpose Room.
  3. Tuesday, March 6 - 7 p.m. @ Soul Fort Richmond - 590 University Crescent.
If you haven't seen it, it's worth a look. If you live outside of our City / Province go to  for more information.


If to be feelingly alive to the sufferings of my fellow-creatures is to be a fanatic, I am one of the most incurable fanatics ever permitted to be at large.” - William Wilberforce

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Remarkable Mother

How's my mental health today?

My mind is still racing, but I'm no longer feeling as agitated as I was earlier in the week. Mind you, that could change quite quickly, depending on what kind of stimulation I get exposed to (and how much).

My head is bouncing in many directions at the moment.

We had invited my mother to join us for supper, and afterwards Heidi, my mom and I sat around chatting - actually, if I remember correctly I was still fairly agitated and kept getting up to do stuff.

I'm not sure why, but I got it into my head to show my mom some of my blog posts. I have never shown my mother any of my writing, because I didn't want to risk inadvertently hurting her.

A little more than five years ago, I wrote some of my personal story. I drafted three chapters and sketched out some extremely brief ideas for more chapters. What started as a brief glimpse of some of my mental illness experiences, began to grow into the possibility of a book. Many people that read what I had written encouraged me to publish the book when I was done. Although the idea of publishing was enticing, I declined. There was no way I was going to publish my personal story as long as my mother was still alive. You see, many people got hurt over the course of my life, especially during the years prior to my receiving a psychiatric diagnosis. There was absolutely no way that I was going to risk injuring my mother emotionally again.

My mother knew that I was writing but she didn't know what.  So here we were, trying to let our dinner settle, when I asked her if she was interested in reading some of my blog posts. There was an immediate positive response.

It was an interesting evening. I handed my mother my tablet computer, showed her how to scroll through the blog, and let her read. She read for almost 2 1/2 hours. I took her through one post after another, beginning with that day's post and then going back to the very first one I wrote last August.

We discussed many things I had written. There were a few eye openers for her. Our chat was quite tangential, just like my blog. I discovered that one of the board members of the organization that owns our building had told my mom that he reads my blog regularly. I had no idea. I wonder how he came across it. Anyway, my mother wants to read more.

So... when Heidi is at work, I'm going to take her laptop computer to my mom's apartment (she lives just across the hall from us and down one suite), fire up the computer, show her how to navigate the blog and use Google and then leave her to it.

As I walked her back to her apartment I started to warn my mother that she might come across stuff that could make her uncomfortable. She dismissed my warning, saying that wasn't a problem - she was interested in my writing, my perspective, and my opinions. In fact, one of the things she did was to encourage me to write more because I've had so many different experiences, both good and bad.


Words fail me... I had not ever dreamed that she would be so keen on reading my stuff or be so accepting and open to whatever I had to say.

Later that evening I dug out the three chapters I wrote five years ago to give to her. I wondered what her response would be to those thirty pages. On my way out the next morning I stopped at my mom's door and offered her the document, strongly cautioning her again that she might find some of it difficult to read. Once again she told me she would be OK - but she added it might take a few days for her to finish reading these pages. I handed her the wad of paper and went on my way.

Two hours later I met with the other members of the "Peters Family Unemployed and Under Employed (PUUE) Support Group". (We've been meeting once a week since last October). The meeting was in Heidi's and my apartment. My youngest sister showed up with the document I had handed my mother earlier. Apparently my mom started reading it and then couldn't put it down until she was done. My sister told me our mother was devastated, but she would be OK. My worst fears seemed to have been realized.

My siblings and I had a great 3 hours together, drinking coffee and talking and laughing about all sorts of things - pretty much the norm for our "Kaffee Klatsches". We spent a fair bit of time talking about our memories, both good and bad, of our years growing up. This time we included the contents of my document. One sister and one brother hadn't read the document yet so they asked if they could read it. They each took a copy home with them/

I tried phoning my mom several times because I was concerned about her. When I finally connected with her she stated she was OK (her words). She wasn't devastated as I had been told - she had been shocked by a few of my revelations, but her biggest issue was her guilt and regret that she hadn't been able to do more to protect me from my father's rages. We had a lengthy conversation - the first of many more I'm sure - and I heard stuff I never knew; I probably blocked a lot of those details out.

The astonishing (to me) part of the conversation was my mother telling me how good my writing was (a mother's bias?). She told me that I needed to write, that I needed to write it all, and I needed to write it now - not after her death.

My mother read a lot to me when I was a child; she taught me to read German (and music). Now she's reading my stuff, giving me her stamp of approval, and the encouragement (directive?) to write my book.

Her words keep echoing in my mind. "You need to write - you need to write it all. Hold nothing back."

Heidi had never seen me cry. She did when I told her about this conversation.

Maybe I will try to write and publish my book before my mother dies.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be
I had a mother who read to me.
-- Strickland Gillilan