Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Lesson Learned

It's summer. Lots of sunshine and warm weather. Time to be outdoors.

Our summers are short so I'm going to take the summer off when it comes to blogging regularly. Since I'm spending a fair bit of time on my family history project I want to free up time to do stuff outdoors.

Being outdoors in the sun and heat means I also have to take some precautions. Years of taking some medications have left me with an extreme sensitivity to sunlight and heat. Yesterday I learned I have to take some other steps to keep myself free from painful and/or irritating consequences.

I had some errands to run yesterday but Heidi was using the car for work. I got on my bicycle for my 29 km trip. Everything went fine until I was about 5.5 km from home. My bicycle suffered a major structural failure. Result: I walked home from there. The problem was that I was not wearing walking shoes and it didn't take long before my feet were blistered. A couple of blisters on the bottom of my left foot popped and were soon bleeding into my shoe.

It took me one and a half hours to walk home.

Today is not a good day for walking.

Lesson learned: always wear good walking shoes, just in case!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Bike to Work Day

I got a late start today.

I was so sound asleep that I never heard Heidi get up to go to work and barely remember her saying bye. I guess my body needed some rest.

The sunshine is streaming through the windows, there's no wind, and no rain in the forecast. I am going to abandon my computer and piles of documents, get on my bicycle and go enjoy the great looking day. That'll be my participation in bike to work day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012


My son Neil, is coming for a visit this morning following which he's going to go have lunch at my mom's.

It'll be good to see him

One of my sisters and brothers are coming for coffee too. They also look forward to seeing Neil.

The conversation will be well timed. A stabbing occurred next door to his apartment building yesterday morning and the victim died later that morning. No matter who you are those kind of violent incidents can shake you up a bit.

Twenty - five years ago a tenant in a building I was caretaking jumped to her death from her 8th floor balcony. She landed right beside the front entrance. Although it was my day off, I had to deal with the situation. It's a day that I'll never forget.

I'm glad Neil will have a chance to debrief with us this morning.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


My piles of paper continue to grow. So do the number of PDF files on my computer. I`m thinking it might be a good idea to get an external storage device just for my family history files.

A couple of days ago my mother handed me more paper. There were newspaper clippings and several poems that someone in the family had saved. The most interesting items were 2 handwritten packets, each 8 pages long. They were photocopies of the complete texts of the memorial services for both of my maternal grandparents. (My German language skills are getting tested and slowly improved).

These packets are very interesting to read (I have only scanned them at this point). After a brief overview of their lives, the minister pastor carries on into a Christian Faith oriented message which included the encouraging words that they are both now with God. (An interesting aside is that he used the same scripture verse for both messages - 2 years apart).

I am puzzled by some of the statements in these sermons. Based on my experience of my grandparents, there is an in-congruency between what I remember and what I am now reading.

I had the privilege of spending more time with my grandparents than any of my siblings. I lived with them for several months during the year I studied in Germany back in the early 1970s. My sister Heidi (my wife has the same name) and I spent 5 weeks with these grandparents in 1969 and my ex-wife and I spent 1 month with them in 1984 and another 8 days in 1988. (My grandmother died in 1993, my grandfather in 1995). In all that time I only recall them going to church once, and that was in 1969 when they took my sister and I to the Evangelical Lutheran Church near their home. My recollection and impression of that event is that it was mostly about us experiencing their Lutheran Church service than anything else. (My grandparents did accompany us to our Mennonite church every Sunday when they visited us here in Winnipeg in 1968).

My recollection of conversations with my grandparents about faith and religion is that both of them had nothing good to say about religion, about the church, and they occasionally questioned the need to believe in God. They were quick to point out the discrepancies in other peoples behaviours and their self proclaimed Christian faith.

Now I`m reading statements that don`t fit with my memories. The grandparents that I never saw go to church (other than when they visited us and that one time in 1969) were  memorialized in a church service. In my presence they mocked the church, faith and the need for God. Now they were said to have gone to be with God.

Did something change in the years between the last time I saw them and their deaths? I hope so. But I don't know. Are these proclamations based on a belief that their infant baptism and later Confirmation ensured their salvation? I hope not. But I don't know.

The in-congruency has me thinking about myself and my life. Will people sense a discrepancy in what is said at my funeral and how they experienced me. I still have the opportunity to make sure that they don't.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


The sifting through old documents continues. I have mounds of paper all around me.

As I'm going through the stacks of old family documents that I've gathered I've been scanning them into PDF files and adding a few notes wherever I can decipher what the document contains. Because so many of the papers are badly faded I've resorted to using Photoshop rather than Adobe Acrobat. Photoshop allows me to make adjustments that make the document easier to read. It all takes time.

Yesterday I worked with an old German newspaper clipping (October 1948) that my mother had found recently. The article was clipped from a publication of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Hanover. I learned something new! I discovered that the publisher had to get a permit number from the military government in order to be able to release this newspaper. Hanover was in the British Occupation Zone at the time. (The permit number was on the front page under the name of the publication).

Translating the title of the article was a very difficult task. I had never heard of the first word in the title. I used several online translators which spewed the word back at me without a translation. I called my mother. She had never heard of the word either but said she'd look it up. It didn't take long until she called back saying she she couldn't find anything about the word. Then she asked me the context the word had been used in. I told her it was the first word in the title whereupon she told me I had read the word incorrectly and gave me the correction. I returned to the clipping and took a much closer look. The typeset used to print the paper had a flaw in it which made the letter 'f' appear as the letter 'l'. What a difference - now the title and the article made sense.

This little episode taught me that I need to examine these documents much more closely. I know my eyesight has deteriorated a bit and I'm beginning to have difficulty with small print. I'll have to either find a magnifier to go over these papers or scan them first and then enlarge it on the computer screen in the hope of making the task of reading the documents a little easier. (Unfortunately, using Photoshop is not an option with the small print in some of my books).

 I'll be busy for a while.

Monday, June 18, 2012

This and That

Writing a new blog post hasn't been anywhere close to the top of my priority list for the past six to seven weeks. In fact, I haven't blogged regularly since the end of April. The old internal messages of "I should be doing this, or I should be doing that" have been raising their ugly heads every now and then, but I've been able to push them aside with a lot of help from Heidi. So at this point I have no idea when or if I'll get back to writing in my blog on a regular basis again.

I have been working on my family history project. Last week I recruited one of my nieces to assist me in the gathering of information. She is very excited and enthusiastic about doing this because it falls in line with one of her keen interests. (I knew this which is precisely why I invited her to join me in this project).

Over the past while I've been working through old family documents that I have collected. Through this activity I have gained a new admiration for archivists and historians who spend much of their time and energy deciphering the old scripts and languages. Some of the documents I have are almost impossible for me to read. The script is baffling and some of the terminology is no longer in use. On top of that, my ability to read German has withered a bit as a result of not using those skills on a regular basis. I can still read the language, just not as quickly as I did in the past.

I received documents from my maternal grandfather in 1984 and when I asked him to sit down with me and help me decipher the old script, he took a piece of paper and wrote out the alphabet in that script, both upper and lower case. Then he handed me the paper and told me to figure it out myself. Needless to say, that wasn't the kind of help I was looking for. Digging through the file folders of documents I found that piece of paper again.

I've got quite a task ahead of me. The challenge will be to not get frustrated and set the whole thing aside again. Time will tell how I do with that.

Friday, June 8, 2012


With the TV schedule going into summer reruns I decided to add a few additional channels in the hope of having a few options beyond watching shows we'd already seen.

Looking at the TV offerings I'm fascinated at the number of "reality" shows available. The variety of these shows seems to keep increasing. The trouble for me is that I fail to see what's real in some of the shows, and others baffle me as to why people would watch them.
I realize it's a matter of taste, but "Swamp People"?

I admit I enjoy many of the shows that include historical information and those that highlight the challenges some people face in their jobs.

As I was waiting for Heidi to get home from work yesterday I came across "Full Metal Jousting" The actual jousting was interesting and entertaining, but most of the show was filled with the contestants talking about how the other contestants were trying to take the prize money away from them and their families. If they had tried a little harder they could have approached the ridiculous hype and chatter of a WWE event.

I'm glad it's summer and I can enjoy the many outside things to do instead of watching these unreal presentations of reality.

As far as I'm concerned, the best 'reality' shows coming up are Euro 2012, the beginning of the CFL season, and the Tour de France. In the meantime I've got another bike ride to enjoy today.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Startting Well

I can't remember the last time I left home at 5 a.m. to go for a ride on my bicycle but that's how my day started yesterday.

I was off to my usual Wednesday 6 a.m. get-together with friends from church for our Bible study over coffee and carbs at Tim Hortons. I haven't cycled much so far this spring for a number of reasons including laziness.

What a wonderful way to begin the day. The cool morning air was refreshing, there were more cyclists on the road than cars, and I could hear all sorts of birds singing and chirping.

I rode along at what I thought was a pretty good pace when a young fellow pedaled past me like I was standing still. I guess that's what happens when you're aging rapidly and out of shape.

After the 'Band of Brothers' meeting  I took the long way home, enjoying the quiet neighbourhoods resplendent with lush green foliage and bright, colourful flowers. The bonus for me was that I got my exercise in before the sun got too hot. 

I just might do this more often.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I wanted to stay away from writing about mental health issues. I thought my rant yesterday communicated that but I haven't escaped that topic yet.

I received some interesting email responses to yesterday's post. The dominant messages were:
  1. Attitudes and understanding have improved over the last few decades.
  2. Don't stop advocating and speaking up. Don't stop educating people and fighting for those who are dealing with mental illness, and trying to overcome the discrimination inherent in the stigma.
There were other suggestions and encouragements. I appreciate the responses.

Attitudes have changed and I feel a sense of relief and gratitude whenever I come across evidence of positive change.

In the midst of  the inflammatory comments by both elements of the media and ignorant prejudicial responses of some of the readers and viewers I came across a balanced, rational column. I'll let the columnist have the last word. Perhaps this message will offset some of the entrenched negative attitudes and beliefs. Tomorrow I hope to begin writing about topics other than mental health.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I'm done!

How's my mental health today?

I'm tired of answering that question. It's time for something different. I just don't know what.

After completing the A-Z challenge I needed to take a break and have written nothing since April 30th. The challenge was fun and tested my ability to come up with the 26 different topics.

Since then I've been wrestling with the question of what to do with my blog. The questions of why am I blogging, who am I blogging for, and what is the focus or topic of my blog kept tumbling around in my head. I still haven't answered them clearly enough to suit me.

I do know I'm going to stop opening with my mental health question. Over the past weeks I have experienced frustration and anger at some of the uninformed, vitriolic diatribes about offenders with mental illness in the media. Granted, the rants were in response to a horrific murder, but in my mind it doesn't excuse the fear-mongering editorial slant of much of the news media. It seems the sensationalistic perpetuation of the image of the dangerous, violent crazy person is of more interest to some reporters and columnists than the balanced factual truth.

Several years ago the Mental Health Commission of Canada asked various stakeholders if the media should be used to educate the public about mental illness in an effort to reduce the stigma that is so rampant in our society. My response to the Commission was that the media needed to be educated first because they are some of the worst offenders when it comes to spreading the stigma of mental illness.

Late last week the Winnipeg Sun posted a public opinion question on their website asking people if they were OK with an art studio for mentally ill artists in their neighbourhood. It was a yes or no question. The question seemed to be related to a story in which a woman in a small community north of Winnipeg applied for a temporary permit to host an outdoor gallery in her yard displaying the work of some mentally ill artists. I found the question offensive and called the newspaper to express my disgust and anger at their playing on people's fears. Past efforts have taught me that I wasted my breath.

I have been one of thousands of people working to educate people about mental illness and the people that live with these disorders. Five years ago I burned out. I have had enough! I'm done.

If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust from your feet.  Matthew 10:14