Month: June 2015

The Most Glorious Summer of My Life (2015)

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Well, the water and the sun were especially beautiful the other day.  This shot was taken at Hawrelak Park.  I have been getting out and doing a lot lately, going for bike rides, going to take photos with my Dad to various parks.  Edmonton is so amazing.  When we were at the park taking this picture, there were conservation officers not a mile away on the same side of a river trying to deal with a black bear that was spotted in our oh so lovely home city.

Yesterday (Sunday) was an especially cool day for me.  Cam Tait, a well known writer for the Edmonton Sun, did a story on me and my book “Inching Back To Sane” (which has just gotten an honorable mention in the New York Book Festival).  It was like having a birthday, only my presents were notices on my phone in text, email, Facebook and voice mail saying that people saw me and congratulations and all that.  I feel a bit nervous about the whole thing because I talked candidly about being mentally ill and I wonder how people will take it.  I am kind of hoping that if I get out to some book signings people will recognize me and the name of my book from the paper and possibly buy more than normal.  For anyone in the Edmonton area by the way, I will be at the Chapters Store on 105 street and 82 (Whyte) avenue for a book signing next Sunday, July 5 from 11:00am to around 4:00pm.

I really liked the article that Cam Tait ran, and he has also been kind enough to agree to post my book signing on his twitter and Facebook accounts, but I felt a bit more pride and happiness later in the day when I found out a short story I wrote was given high praise by a couple of artists working on a project to historically portray a well known (at times infamous) Hotel in downtown Edmonton, the York.  It is so amazing sometimes to see one’s name in print and to see people write things that are positive.  When I was a teenager I used to get that thrill from driving my old Ford Cobra as fast as I could, I was a real show-off and some kids would be amazed at it.  Then later on in life I remember being in a large pool tournament and feeling that incredible rush when you make a difficult shot and a crowd of people applaud for you.  I also had quite a rush from flying a small plane but that wasn’t quite the same.

Now I just love it when I write something and it has substance, people compliment it and even say it touched them.  That is why I have been excited about taking on a greater role as a writing teacher in my community.  So far I have only taught a few classes, but I have this idea in my head that when you take people who are poor or homeless or mentally ill and teach them something that gives them a skill, a way to express themselves and communicate, you empower them to transcend their situation, to improve their lives, even to free themselves from their current difficulties I believe.  So in that vein I am going to try and get funding from a community revitalization grant to teach two classes, bring in guest speakers and hold other events and workshops for people in McCauley and the surrounding areas.  One class will be open to the public but kind of geared toward people who are mentally ill, and the other will be at the Bissel Centre, a drop-in centre for people who are homeless or without means of support.

On a side note, I made kind of a neat purchase the other day, it is a little device the size of a deck of cards and comes as a ‘you build it, you program it’ computer that runs on Linux.  It was so much fun to hook this thing up and add software and all that but I fear that will be where the fun ends.  I got an interesting free software package of office programs and I also installed ‘Doom’ on it.  I love doing things like that to challenge myself, but then the reality is that there is actually little use for it once it is up and running.  When I had my own apartment I had sort of a computer business running in it, I think I had more than ten computers, and I was always doing things like setting it up with Linux, upgrading the Operating systems and all that.  Now that I have a Mac I have gotten a bit lazy about things.  I actually don’t just have a Mac though, I have an iWatch Sport, an iPhone 6, an iPad mini and a desktop Mac Mini.  All in all kind of cool but a little overboard.  I think my iWatch has really enhanced my life though because it can time how many calories you burn and how much motion you undertake each day and I have been doing some serious exercising and feel really good physically.  I have always wondered though what the connection is between people who are extremely fit and people who are extremely smart.  It seems rare to find a bodybuilder who is nerdy, I wonder if it has to do with the amount of time it takes to work out compared to the amount of time it takes to study and work hard academically.  One thing I do know is that when I was around 17 I started to discover how good it felt to be in shape and I started to seriously want to make that my main focus.  My brother was a bodybuilder when we were teens and for most of his adolescent years he did poorly in school but then turned things around in grade 12 and did very well for himself while being very fit.

One of the things I remember was that when I was in Cadets it was almost mandatory to lift weights, it was just what Sergeants did and I used to do a lot of different workouts though by that time I was a smoker.  Then I started to go into what I can only refer to as a pacifist mode and wanted to turn away from everything military.  I remember talking with my gym teacher and I told him that the majority of people who work out or play sports do it with the sole intention of being able to do violence to other people.  I was very wrong, but in school I was really turned off of sports for my grade 11 and 12 years (though I still did a martial arts workout several times a week and had very physically active jobs) because of the way ‘dumb jocks’ had bullied me.  It’s all a question I have no answer for, except to ask that you read my poem which is after the picture below, keep and open mind and feel very free to comment on this blog entry or even send me an email, I would love to hear from you.  My email is viking3082000@yahoo.com

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The Way

 

Once I felt so worthless and forgotten

But I kept my sense of pride

Always thinking of how I hurt so many friends

Who have moved on and even some who died

 

If I had chosen another path for myself

I will admit I would not be standing here

With new friends and a family I love so much

And the one woman I hold close and dear

 

It seemed that I had wasted

Such a huge part of my days

But in the end I think I had to

For things to become so good in so many ways

 

Once there was a light of my life

A young woman beautiful and smart

But she simply would not become mine

Though now I’m glad that we did part

 

She seemed to think the she has class

So much more than all the rest

I thought she was all I wanted

But now I live among the poor and feel so blessed

 

I have my true love, I have the words I write

A family all over who I care so much for

I had to learn a lesson to become a man

Always ask for less than others and give more

 

I can hardly express how my life has become

Living among so many dear friends

Even some I worship on Sundays with

And will hold dear until the bitter end

 

A strong heart now beats inside of me

And I have so much more than I could ever ask

Who would have thought a thing like love

Is far and above our lives’ most important task

 

I send these world to the whole world

In the hopes that even a few will see

Only when you give all of yourself

Can you be at peace and truly free

 

I also ask that you honor those who paved the way

For our present world and now are gone

Be like a bonded servant to all those who need

Care and love to just simply keep on keeping on

 

Pray for the poor and lonely

Always try to ease their pain

Give all you can and know the truth

What you give will come back again

 

And as the years melt past before your eyes

Your hair may whiten but your soul will grow

And you will have the joys and memories

That only the good ones ever know

 

What The Heck Do You Think This Is? Band Camp?

DSC_0148Snapped this photo today of the underside of a raven on the wing

     Hello Dear Readers!  Well, this has been a good week so far.  I apologize to any 7th day Adventists out there, but I like to think a week begins on Monday, but it can be useful to think of Sunday being the first day of the week.  Personally I can go to church on Saturday or Sunday though I usually like to catch the early mass Sunday mornings.  As per usual though, I didn’t get to church this week.  I feel a bit bad about it because we have an amazing Priest, he is both American born and a convert to Catholicism and he is an incredible person.  Yesterday I went over to celebrate father’s day with my Dad and brother, I put a few photos on my Facebook page, which anyone is welcome to go and view, just look up Leif Gregersen and make sure you get me and not my Dad who has the exact same first middle and last name as I do.  Then after that I worked the Cirque De Soleil concert load-out which was mostly uneventful if you aren’t my poor aching back.  Today, Monday was pretty eventful.  I went out for an early lunch with a friend and we have been discussing several writing projects involving the community I live in and I also found out that I am being featured in a poetry exhibit of some kind at a local festival.  The most fun part though was going to the park with my new telephoto lens and my new-ish Nikon camera and taking a whole whack of pictures.  It is a bit of work to swap lenses all the time, but I sure can get some amazing photos, especially now that I have been learning more about my Nikon.  After supper I had no desire to sit in the house and lament my sore muscles so I picked up my stuff and headed for the swimming pool.  I borrowed some flippers and a flutter board and did some slow laps then hit the steam room and then dove into the cool water.  All in all it felt very relaxing and refreshing.  Now I don’t know how I’m going to get to sleep.

The other thing I did was stop procrastinating and I got to work on a magazine assignment I was assigned by the Tribal College Journal.  It was interesting to learn some of the facts about the Tribal College I was showcasing in words and pictures today, the student body is 75% female and of the average age of 30-35.  It almost makes me think it isn’t too late for me to go back to school, which could be highly beneficial to my career as a writer, but I have decided a long time ago that I know enough to make a living, and I do have a good job and lots of prospects, but also that going back to school would likely be too much pressure on me.  It is sad to think, but in my entire life I have never held a steady full time job.  I have been working with the Union I am in for a long time, but it is at best part-time and at worst not at all.  I can recall times when I worked for a few days in a row or a few weeks, but something about me and my ability to handle stress and sleep deprivation just won’t allow it.  It is funny because when I was a teen I would go to school all week, pull down decent grades and still work 20-40 hours a week, even more at times.  I recall a teacher in elementary having a talk with my parents about working me too hard.  Sometimes I wonder if my first serious mental collapse had to do with burnout.  For years afterwards I would sleep sometimes 12 hours a day on average.  It was hell really, living in an apartment with no contact to the outside world.  Sometimes I had no phone, I certainly didn’t have my front door buzzer connected.  I had no computer, I would just sit in my apartment sometimes in dizzying depths of depression and loneliness watching my small black and white TV, typing on my electric typewriter and reading my books.  At one point I took in a roommate just to ease the loneliness, but he ended up taking severe advantage of me.  Soon after he moved in he seemingly took over the place and invited all of his street friends in to live in my apartment and it took me months to get rid of them, not to mention an $800 phone bill I had no means of paying.  Things are so much better now, but I have to admit that even today I entertained thoughts of moving out on my own.  I really would like to go back to cooking for myself, I used to enjoy fiddling around with a budget and trying to eat healthy and all that.  Anyhow, now this has become a long rant, I will cut things off there.  As always, everyone who visits is free to email me at viking3082000@yahoo.com or join me on Facebook at Leif Gregersen.   Anyone in Edmonton or area can now order my books from Chapters, I have six in the system now, I am going to try soon to get copies placed in stores.  All the best Dear Readers, enjoy the poem below today’s 2nd photo!

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Hear Wisdom Cry Out, See It In The Sky

 

Will you celebrate your own happiness

Will you sing out words of joy

Do you understand the love that binds all of us

Young or old, man, girl or boy

 

Oh, when I was younger the world was such a perfect place to be

Savoring each moment like a ruby red glass of finest wine

I had so much love and wonder for the world around me

But soon that joy was no longer mine

 

The whole world was not enough for me

Neither was my own fair share

Somehow I couldn’t go on living simply

It was as if I was deathly scared

 

I would look at those with money

Lament I didn’t have enough

And then life became no fun for me

And I began to work harder and far too much

 

And then came more than my share of con artists

Who fleeced me for every dime

They knew how to exploit my own greediness

In truth the fault was mine

 

I believed all the lies they told me

How they would make me rich

And somehow things just didn’t come to be

One time I was left hungry in a ditch

 

There is no easy road to wealth

The streets are not simply paved with gold

I traded happiness and health

And I will regret it soon when I get old

 

But I will tell you if there is a thing of perfection

It would be admiring the gentle flocks of geese

They can always find the right direction

As they soar through the air with ease

 

Take the bird’s lesson, follow where your heart takes you

My friend, follow your heart when you are young

There really is a loving God and it really is true

There are songs not written that can be sung by you

 

 

As you journey forth to find your own way

You will always find a place to rest your head

Remember a miracle on a far off day

Where a few loaves fed thousands bread

 

Work hard and love your family

Always do what you think seems right

Prepare for the time that you are free

In a perfect world of light

 

Write great wisdom’s teachings deep inside

And you will always find a way

Put away hatred, addiction, anger, pride

And for you there will be perfect peace one day

 

 

Leif Gregersen

June 23, 2015

My Ship Came In But I Was Stuck At The Airport

IMG_5877A few raindrops on the windshield but still some of the most beautiful country you can see

Well Dear Readers, I hope you all had a good chance to bond with your fathers or children yesterday.  I went for a very cool dinner cooked by my brother who is something of an incredible cook, having taken 3 years of formal training and many years of experience as a professional cook.  At the moment, I have the honorable task of helping edit a book that is not yet released by one of Canada’s top writers, Richard Van Camp.  The book is literally incredible, it weaves together a lot of the characters that Richard developed in his stories and the movies he made of them, including “The Lesser Blessed” and “Midnight Mohawk Runners”.  Then yesterday I was working at the Edmonton Coliseum, also known as Rexall Place, loading the trucks up from the Cirque De Soleil show.  Friday I was interviewed by an Edmonton Sun Reporter, Cam Tait and I am anxious to see how the article will come out.  And then last Wednesday I taught my second writing class to a grand total of one student, but still it was fun.  The student is a young man who grew up in this area and he is a very interesting young man and not a bad poet.  Like they say, those who can’t do… teach!

Another thing that happened this week was I completed my Wellness Recovery Action Plan course which means I can now take a further course to be a facilitator.  I think this would be a great experience for me, I have been considering writing another book with regards to mental health, only this time one with more hard data and facts and all that rather than just stories of what happened to me.  I feel there is a great power that occurs when a persona can honestly share their own stories, in fact I think it is the main problem with mental health treatment today–too many people are too worried to admit they have  a mental health issue.  The only fact I really know is that 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 people will need to seek treatment for a mental illness at some point in their lives, but if all the people who were trying to tough it out or didn’t trust Psychiatrists or were too worried to reach out for help were counted in, it could be a lot more, who knows?

Anyhow, that is the long and short of it.  In the morning I am going for a business lunch to discuss me taking on more responsibilities in the fall session of my writing class.  I don’t really know how long I want to stay up but I might have to stay up all night just to make it in.  I will most likely go for a swim in the morning to keep myself going, not an easy thing when I have worked as a truck loader the night before.  I guess the price of influence and self respect is a few nights of missed sleep here and there.  All I can really say about the last couple of years is that it has been such an amazing experience publishing a book, and then publishing many of them.  I am meeting so many people, doing so many things.  The money isn’t really there, I have sold a lot of copies of one of my books and I think if I am lucky I am close to breaking even, but writing is such a wonderful experience.  I like to quote a man named Bronowski, a scholar who was the host of “The Ascent of Man” a TV show my mom used to really enjoy, which was also a book of the same name by the same person, the quote went something like: “The magic of reading is that no matter where you are, no matter the time or place, you can open a book up and be instantly transported into the mind of the author.”  I thank you Dear readers, for reading my mind 🙂  Poem to follow below today’s second photo.

DSCF5316     This is a photo I took underwater snorkeling in Hawaii last fall

First Love

 

Please let me paint a picture here with words

A story unlike any you’ve ever heard

It all begins in a sunny late spring day

When all the little boys and girls came out to play

 

There was a little boy who stood out among the crowd

Somehow as just a lad he seemed to stand tall and proud

And a little curly blonde-haired girl caught his eye

He could have made her his friend but didn’t try

 

This cute little pair of children grew up very fast

Funny enough the girl had a crush on him as time passed

But as they went through school together it was all a game

A race to see who would first get fortune and fame

 

At first as a model and a scholar the girl did well

Though the strong young boy was going through a kind of hell

His life at home got worse as each day went by

It was all he could do to not curl up, give up and cry

 

One day when he had taken all he could

He thought of the one thing in life he saw as good

He reached out to the curly blonde haired girl for hope

He was at the end of a nasty, slippery rope

 

All at once our blond girl expressed her love and true respect

But he didn’t want to start out his life in her debt

He thanked her but then went off to make his own way

He never stopped hoping to see her again one day

 

Life had never seemed to him all that fair

It had been so awful he really thought no one cared

But still he set off to conquer life on his own

He left his friends and his community, he left his home

 

Our boy put out his thumb and headed for the coast

Overnight to all his friends he became a ghost

Vanished out of sight and out of mind

Wondering to himself why the blonde girl was so kind

 

And as some do in sunny summer days

The young man succeeded in numerous ways

But when he returned home all the love was gone

The little curly blonde haired girl had moved on

 

No words could ever win her back again

He had to face the fact that this was the very end

And so he went on living like a ghost

Drifting north to south and coast to coast

 

Then one day he met a young troubled soul

And he found that holding her made him feel whole

Soon a wedding came and not long after a child

They let the baby grow up just a little wild

 

In their humble home there was always love and fun

And before too long our boy saw past memories as done

It meant so much to just lay back and hold his child and wife

By losing his first love he was given the perfect life

 

 

Leif Gregersen

June 22, 2015

All God’s Creatures and Creations

DSC00103       This is a photo of a poor neglected critter not too far from where I live.  There are scores of these poor guys in Edmonton.  I have heard that rabbits like these are often not wild rabbits, they are rabbits that were adopted as pets for Easter and people decided they didn’t have the resources to take care of them and set them loose.  Australia had a very serious problem with rabbit overpopulation (hey-they breed like rabbits!)  They actually had to release a disease that killed them off by the thousands to cull the population.  Sometimes I wonder, even though it does seem a bit inhumane, why they don’t capture these rabbits and use them for food or even simply their pelts.  As far as food, apparently you don’t want to eat any rabbit that lives within 50 miles of a city, they are full of rancid polluted water and waste.  As for the pelts I don’t know.  I had a friend who worked in leathers and he was able to make gloves and such from rabbit, but that may be different kinds of rabbits than the ones we see around Edmonton.

Well, I don’t really think I have a terrible lot to say today.  There is something I want to address, up until recently I had a problem with two things that made my whole life very difficult.  One was that I had a very hard time getting up and getting going for things I had to do, and the other is that I never seemed to be able to stick to a schedule.  Lately I have gotten a lot better about these things (thankfully-I had a strong feeling that this would doom me to unemployment and even extremely poor health-imagine never being able to keep Doctor’s appointments and such).  One of my problems though was time management and it has been incredibly changed by me buying an iPhone.  I have a friend with one and he is constantly checking it for appointments and adding or removing things.  The iPhone makes things so easy, you just scroll through a few options, type in what you need to do and where and you can even set alerts for a day ahead or an hour ahead, and also a second alert.  I thought just having a phone was a huge difference in my life, but now I am feeling a lot more confident about being able to stay on track, take on different things.  I was never able to keep a  day timer before, but now I took the leap and it is kind of exciting.

So, as many of you may know, I try to keep to a kind of ‘life skills’ theme, focused on people who either have or treat or have family members with mental illness.  I think a lot of what I have to say applies to many types of people though.  What I wanted to address today is pets.  Pets can be so amazing for people, just the other day I met an incredible dog that changed my mind about dogs forever.  I also like cats a lot, but now I see how much fun a dog could be.  I have only had a few pets in my life, a couple of gerbils and a hamster, and it was amazing how much they changed me.  My first pet, a gerbil I named Leo was so much fun.  I would let him out of his cage and he would climb into my hand, run up my arm and either sit on my head if I lowered it, or he would shimmy down and go into my shirt pocket.  It was an amazing experience to have another creature to care for, and having him helped me through one of the most difficult times of my life.  I will never forget watching a documentary about a senior’s home where a cat they had in common among all the residents would actually know when a person was going to pass away and would go and just sit with them until they were gone.  Dozens of studies have proved that a pet lowers blood pressure and heart rate and other important health indicators.

I can’t remember if I had talked about him before in this blog, but I had a pet once who was pretty incredible.  His name was Lilleven, which was Danish for little friend and he was so loving to each of the five members of our family.  When he died I thought I would never have another pet.  I have had pets since him, but I still like to honor his memory by getting others to name their pets after him and to talk and write about him.  I won’t get too far into that here, I just want to stress that anyone who is dealing with a mental health issue should consider even something small like a gerbil or guinea pig, they can add new meaning to one’s life.  I remember a story I heard when I was a teenager about a woman who was in a serious state of depression and would have tried to kill herself but stopped because she realized that no one would take care of her cat if she were gone.  That is a pretty powerful reason to have a pet, it can actually save your life!

I will lay that topic to rest for now.  Today is my departed cousin’s birthday.  His name was Frank Hansen and he was a very kind and friendly man.  I don’t know for sure if I met him when we were kids and I was in Denmark, but we connected for a time on Facebook and I had made plans to one day go and visit him and his family.  His sons today posted to Facebook a picture of them laying flowers on his grave and it made me feel very sad.  It has been three years since he passed away and they are still having a hard time coping.  I totally understand what they are going through, some years back my mom passed away and not a day, not and hour goes by without me thinking of her.  Every time something good happens, every time I feel like I need to talk to someone who cares no matter what I think of my mom.  What I was told that my grieving process may never end, and that is fine with me.  Over time I have learned to cope with my feelings but I don’t get them out as much as I would like.  Shortly after my mom passed, my Psychiatrist told me with the utmost of compassion that losing your parents is something that happens to all of us.  In a way I thought my mom and I had a special relationship because we both had a mental illness and both knew the state of hopeless desperation, but in reality, a mom is a pretty special person to probably 998 out of a thousand people.  Nothing in the world is more important than being a mother, there would be no people if it weren’t for mothers and there would be a lot more carnage in this world if mothers didn’t teach their kids just about everything about life.  To get in a good word for Catholics, I should mention that Mary, mother of Jesus was the first Saint and is held high above all humans because she was holy enough to carry the son of God in her womb.

Anyhow, I hope people out there have been enjoying this blog.  As I always I welcome your comments, I want to thank the people who have been commenting, though I feel you are all being a little too kind!  🙂  As always, I want to stress that I am writing this blog in the hopes of helping people and reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, so feel free to contact me any time at my person email, viking3082000@yahoo.com

IMG_7440This is Pyramid Lake, where my family goes each year around this time.  The small island is where we scattered my mother’s remains a few years ago. 

 

Peter Hemingway (Coronation)

 

It was hot today and I was waiting in the sun for another downtown run

I squinted in the bright sunlight admiring pigeon-angels taking flight

They soar in search of usable waste, then glide gracefully down to take a taste

If I had some fries I would share, these are such beautiful creations and I care

I wish I could feed the world and these scavenging birds but all I have is words

In my heart I feel such strong emotion, a feeling not unlike devotion

The animals and trees and grass and sky, they all give me some new kind of high

I wait just long enough then from far off I see my bus

I board the number five and marvel at how in the summer this city is alive

Rabbits, magpies, gulls geese and blue jays, oh God in heaven bless these warm days

The bus takes me along to where I see the river, our provider, our forgiver

A million green and glorious trees swaying gently in a cool north country breeze

But as the route continues all goes dead no more trees just financial towers instead

Soon though I pass downtown and once more trees grass and parks abound

I ring the bell to sound the call I am disembarking at the mall

As I leave the bus the perfume perfection of lilac trees surrounds and enraptures me

What a time in life to walk through a park then write poems until dark

I want to paint for you a picture all in words of these things I’ve seen and heard

How I walked to the swimming pool and dove into water deep, blue and cool

And then I sweated all my cares away in the hot tub to cap off the day

Now I feel as though I were newly born, just a little time left for TV and popcorn

Colder days haven’t escaped all thought, but hey-these summer days were bought

I also have so many awesome friends; cold weather doesn’t mean the fun must end

Edmonton is truly dear to me, here my heart soars like an eagle, strong and free

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015

A Blog and a Poem For Brian and the Work He Does

DSC_0067This is basically the busiest place in North Western Canada.  Calgary to the South and Vancouver to the South-West may rival it, but this is the Alpha and the Omega of what happens in the North.

     Good morning dear readers.  Just to let you know early, for those of you who like my poems, I have written one today and will be posting just under the last photo in today’s blog.  Kind of a funny thing, I thought I did a pretty good job of writing a blog yesterday, but I didn’t get too many views.  I don’t know if I am getting boring or if I am just not using the most optimal tags.  There is also the fact that the weather has been gorgeous and sunny over a lot of the places I get hits.

So today is going to be a bit of a lukewarm blog.  It is just past 4:00am and I can’t sleep so I decided this might be a good time to foster up some creativity.  Oh, before I forget, anyone who likes is totally free to email me about this blog or anything else at: viking3082000@yahoo.com I hope you do whenever you get the chance.

So yesterday I was involved in a music festival right in my neighborhood at a small park in what we call little Italy.  Some of the music was really amazing and I was given the opportunity to go up on stage and read my poetry.  I often wonder where poetry will take me, I love to write it but I seem to lapse into the same kind of style a lot.  I will leave you my dear readers to judge and let you know that I would appreciate any honest feedback I can get.

The outdoor festival was amazing, I had a table set up with books and though I didn’t sell too many, I was interviewed by a TV station and I ran into the candidate I am supporting for the next Federal election in Canada which happens in October.  She is an incredible, energetic, community minded, hard working and very nice young woman.  She is with a party called “The New Democratic Party” or NDP which is a left-leaning party that swept the Alberta elections just a few short weeks ago and has left a lot of people very excited at the direction things are going to go for Albertans.  It is my personal hope that more will be done for the mentally ill in the way of funding for hospital facilities and possibly even disability pensions, though I have to admit that I already get kind of a generous one.

So what does a person do when they can’t sleep?  I hear the dyslexic insomniac stays up all night wondering if there really is a dog.  Okay, that was pretty sick, but you snickered a bit didn’t you?  I heard another pretty good one from my good friend James Derksen.  He has this book that publishes contest winners who are asked to write in with their absolute worst novel beginnings.  In one of them there was a paragraph:  “Mr. Van Gogh, I suggest you consider painting as a career because you clearly have no ear for music!”  Okay, I will stop there.

Saturday night I decided to do some more serious reading and I picked up a book I had received in the mail from amazon a few days ago.  It is called “The Depression Workbook” and it is giving me a lot of interesting ideas.  It is written by the woman who founded the course that I am taking which is called WRAP, or Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  I have been reading about a lot of interesting new ideas, some that I support, some I have a hard time swallowing.  One of them is a statement that I would have been very reluctant to accept ten years ago which states that only you can be an expert on your condition.  Doctors can help, but they don’t know which medication really makes you feel better or worse, you have to do your part.  Another thing that I already know but really want to look into is having tests to see if my moods go up and down as a result of hormone deficiencies.  I seriously doubt my Doctor has been wrong about me having Bipolar all these years but I think it might be a good idea.

It is funny to think back to some of my first days in the mental hospital when I was still a teenager.  They doped me up like crazy and my mind was all over the place.  It didn’t help that I hated everything about Psychiatry including the Psychiatrists even though a lot of these people were doing everything they could to help me.  One of the reasons I think I felt this way had to do with how the initial staff that I encountered in going to the hospital treated me.  The people on the lock-down ward I went to first were brutal.  There was this one male nurse who once slammed my face into a hard floor and put me into a wrestling hold while someone arbitrarily decided I could use a shot of some evil tranquilizer that made my muscles lock up.  By the time I got to see the Psychiatrist, I had very little faith in anything he had to say.  The funny thing is that my Doctor in that locked ward right on the first time I went into the mental hospital is my Doctor to this day, now 25 years later.

I am learning a lot from this Wellness Recovery Action Plan.  Little things like making sure people know which Doctors you don’t want to deal with and which hospital you want to go to.  I had kind of thought that I would never need to go back in the hospital, but a lot of circumstances could put me in there.  Having a plan, and possibly even having a bag packed could help a lot.  Last time I was in the hospital I had to wear the same clothes for months and had nothing from home.  I went through the humiliation of swapping blue jeans with a guy because they wouldn’t give me a belt and my pants were literally falling off me (I wasn’t eating much either).  It seemed the cruelty and inhuman treatment was constant.  I have to say though that the mental hospital I was in was really a beautiful place.  No matter where I went, no matter how sick I got, no matter what happened to me, somehow I would end up back there and I would end up better.  Sometimes it felt really awful in there, but it had more to do with me being very mentally ill.

It’s a weird thing but it almost seemed like the staff and others could see right in my eyes whether I was delusional or not.  What bugs me the most is that while I was there the people on the staff made me out to be some kind of monster.  Quite often other patients had picked fights with me and I did the bare minimum I had to do to defend myself and then I heard later that the nurses were trying to convince those people to have me charged.  There were a lot of stories like that, one of them had to do with this female nurse who said she would pick me up a cassette walkman for me and she kept coming back to me and asking for more money for it.  They would seize my property and give it to others, and one time they actually tried to force an end to a friendship I had made in the hospital.  And this didn’t come from the top, this was a decision made by some random nurse, not even the head nurse.  “I have already told her to stay away from you.” she told me.  Then others would get angry when I joked around with people and act appalled that I wasn’t making friends with other people.  It really is something I wish on no one and sometimes I think I would like to blow that place up and build a proper place for people who have illnesses to be treated like human beings.

Anyhow, that is how it goes, I have been trying so hard to redirect my thoughts when I get into rants or dredge up old memories.  I have been using a relaxation video from YouTube, one I posted a few days ago and it seems to be helping.  I think what I really need to do is to take a proper meditation class and learn how to be more mindful of my surroundings and less mindful of things in the past that I can’t change and only make me upset.  Enjoy the poem Dear Readers, write soon!

Leif Gregersen

DSC_0016 2Construction has always fascinated me, the very idea of building something that will mean so much to the inhabitants or employees in it, the idea of creating something solid and permanent.  The other day I worked building a local hockey rink and I am hoping the puck boards I set up will last through many a fun game played by local kids.

 

Hope Mission

 

Today I saw a sight that broke my heart

So many downtrodden men with lives all torn apart

As I saw them around me tears welled up in my eyes

For once I didn’t want to wear my tough guy disguise

 

These homeless men were lining up to sleep upon a floor

A guard was checking for weapons or booze right at the door

One poor soul had neither socks or shoes

Someone was saying Jesus dying was good news

 

I how I wish I knew a way to really help these men

Without putting myself in their very situation once again

Yes, a few years ago I had no place to call home

Sick and lost and wandering the streets alone

 

By love and luck and friendship I somehow overcame

Oh my sweet God in heaven let these men somehow do the same

And let me be your instrument to help them in some way

I don’t want to think I couldn’t even stop to pray

 

So many came here when we put out the call

That there was money here and plenty of jobs for all

For a time here things did look pretty good

But things never seem to change in this neighborhood

 

Though now a sweeping change is bringing hope

Of giving those who have nothing enough to cope

I wish with all my spirit one day these men have much much more

Than getting just a little bit of money and then being shown the door

 

As well as stomachs, these men need to fill their souls hearts and mind

With the hope of dignity and self-reliance they themselves find

Some of the wisest words I know of would be a perfect start

“Every one of us has a God-shaped hole inside our heart.”

 

Leif Gregersen

June 8, 2015

Friends Near and Far, Present and Past

DSC_0083My favorite place in Edmonton, our award-winning public library!

     Hello Dear Readers!  I want to extend a hand of friendship to all those who take the time to read my blog and encourage you not to be a stranger, email me any time at viking3082000@yahoo.com

Well, today I kind of had something on my mind and I expressed it in a poem which I will post below the second photo for today.  It is a weird thing.  When I was in high school, I had a couple of friends here and there, but never really was in tight with any groups, with perhaps the exception of Air Cadets.  Then, when I quit cadets, as though my membership in that organization dictated who I should associate with, I stopped talking to any Air Cadets completely, with the exception of maybe two guys, one who was my best friend just about all through cadets and thought would be my best friend forever, and another guy who was a good friend for many years but kind of took a different path than me, mostly because he went to a Catholic School and I went to a Protestant one.  It seems so weird now to think of a whole city having the choice of only Catholic or Protestant high schools if you consider how much of the world is Buddhist or Hindu or Native Indian or any of the tons of religions.  In my home town’s defense, they did open up a third high school and most people were free to attend any school they liked.

To get back to the subject of friendship though, I knew this guy in grade nine and his name was Mike.  He was a pretty nerdy guy, overweight, wore glasses but didn’t have much skill in the academic part of school.  He told me once he used to get 95% averages and that it dropped to 65% after he smoked pot twice, that helped me to stop experimenting myself.  In a lot of ways Mike was a good friend, but he liked to egg me on to do things.  He always seemed to get me to wreck something or tick someone off.  Another thing I used to do to impress him for some reason was drive on people’s lawns.  There was this one time a girl was having a party that she didn’t want her parents to know about and I drove my Dad’s van right through the snow in her front yard then yelled at her for not adequately cleaning her driveway causing me to slip.  I was a jerk.

So anyhow, Mike and I did a lot of fun things together.  We had a couple of other friends, one of them is now a University Professor and the other has some successful insulation company in our home town.  It was just that they all drank so bloody much all the time.  Nothing was fun without drinking for them, but there were other reasons I didn’t stay friends with them.  Part of it had to do with me leaving to try and join the military and part of it had to do with people moving on.  The weird thing is that I think about these guys a lot.  When you are 16 or 17 you tend to think your friends will be your friends forever.  I don’t feel so bad about it, it is now more than 25 years since then, but it would be nice to meet up with some of these people.  Sadly with my illness it might not be the healthiest thing.  I am so blessed now to have a great job and lots of people I love working with.  I don’t have a car or any property, but in a way that gives me a special kind of freedom.

I wonder if many of you people, my readers, were around in the 1980’s?  I have a lot of memories of being a little tipsy and driving around blasting songs on our cassette decks like “Here I Go Again” by Whitesnake or “Where The Streets Have No Name” by U2.  I have such vivid memories, paired with emotion-memories, (when I think of these times, I feel what I felt back then, I was in love with this young woman I had no hope with, I was often in a state of depression, but cruising and music always lifted my spirits).

It is weird to think back to how I felt at those times, maybe it was because I wasn’t on medication I should have been taking, maybe it was just because I was young, but everything seemed to have so much more meaning, love seemed stronger, attraction seemed so much more urgent.  I also kind of have this feeling that if I call up some long lost friend I will learn they died ten years ago or something like that.  This is where gossip comes in handy, but it is rarely truthful.  I did run into a guy I was good friends with for a couple of years in junior high and he was very happy to see me and even bought two of my books.  He had read about me in my home town paper and said he had been going around bragging that he knew me.  Now that felt good.

I don’t really know what I’m grabbing at as I write this though.  I want to express how hard it is to lose a friend while there is a big part of me that thinks two contrasting things: 1) those people would be a negative influence on me anyway with my new clean and sober and churchgoing lifestyle, and 2) If I really wanted to get in touch with these people, it wouldn’t be as hard as I am making it out to be.  I could pick up the phone, look up brothers or sisters or such, there are people who could get me in touch with them.  One thing I do a lot is one-up myself over people I once knew.  I think to myself, well, I’m better than them because I have written these books, because I have traveled to these places, but when it really comes down to it people aren’t much different whether they are rich or famous or religious or not.  I should also note that there are two guys out there who are literal people-using, self-serving, destructive socio/psychopaths that I should never talk to again.  I guess there are more than that.  I think that is a good time to leave off though, I would love to hear from anyone what they think or see any comments on the topic of friends, toxic and nurturing.

Anyhow, I am writing this blog today on June 6, 2015 which is the 71 year anniversary of the D-Day invasion.  I hope anyone out there who reads this can pause for a moment and say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives on both sides of that battle.  If it hadn’t taken place and hadn’t gone the way it did my Dad wouldn’t have been around to come to Canada to become my Dad as he grew up in occupied Denmark which was liberated by the British Army.  No political statement, no war stories, I just hope anyone who prays that they think for a short while about what this day in history means.  And if you don’t pray, a good way to think for a moment about the lives lost on that day is to watch “Saving Private Ryan” I’m posting the link below in case anyone wanted to take a look.  Scroll down below today’s second photo for today’s poem.  All the best!

DSC_0122This is a photo of the Edmonton Remand Centre, where people were once kept awaiting trial.  There is talk of turning it into a homeless shelter, and whispered rumours that it was one already when it was operating.

 

What Does It Matter To Who

 

One clear, cool and breezy late summer night

As I basked in the glow of the midnight twilight

I breathed in the fresh and clean Northern air

And realized I had something so beautiful to share

 

I hoped there were words to describe these days

These mid-summer nights with no smog and no haze

Just glorious clouds and the clear sky and sun

And so many ways around the city to celebrate and to have fun

 

These things all happen in my city, my home

Where there is rest and respite for the poor and alone

We can do more for the sick and the homeless I will not deny

All over this world though there are poor people I can’t tell you why

 

I want to help them all and so I try to cast in my lot

I once was the same as they were, I haven’t forgot

How the shame and the hunger eats away at your soul

Most of those people once had lives that fate somehow stole

 

 

Though I feel their pain, I also have memories

When all summer long kids did as they pleased

Adulthood back then seemed eons away

So much time for us back then to run jump and play

 

But seconds added up into weeks months then years

Soon I was grown and there was no more time for tears

I had to work at making a living every single day

I needed a roof and groceries, there was no other way

 

Time marched on and on then came the best years of my life

I learned how to cope with and to manage the troubles and strife

And now I will share what I promised with you

It is my good friends that there is nothing you cannot do

 

You can chip off and flatten the mass of a mountain

You can build a physique that looks like a statue in a fountain

You simply must make big goals your life’s plan

And one day the moon and the stars will be right in your hand

 

Sit down right now and plan what you want to make of your life

Write down all about your perfect car, your perfect husband or wife

What you dream in your head you one day will be able to do

If you keep on and on at it each day it will come true

 

The most perfect plans start with simply a thought

The most perfect dreams are made and not bought

I have a goal for myself that one day soon will come to pass

I will write all my poems in the hot sun sipping iced tea from a glass

 

Far away from this land that I love beside the sea I shall be

With shorts and cool ocean breezes and that feeling that I’m free

And I will return each year when the sun shines and the festivals come

Back to my chosen home, my dear Edmonton

 

And all the while I will hone my craft

Beginning an amazing creation in every draft

I don’t want things for free, I will work hard for success

And I will remember it is only God I have to impress

 

Leif Gregersen

June 6, 2015

Finding Inspiration: Stealing a Little Here and There

DSCF1156I was drawn to this building because of all the lettering.  My Dad was a sign writer most of his life and made a lot of really cool signs in his shop.  The worn down and abandoned look to this building reminds me that even our heroes in this world are subject to impermanence.

     Hello Dear Readers!  I am fiddling around with the format of this blog a bit, I hope you don’t mind.   As usual I am more than happy to receive comments on my personal email if anyone has questions or wants to see something different.  It is of course, viking3082000@yahoo.com and I still haven’t gotten one single email from anyone!

Well, I guess there is a lot to discuss here.  Saturday night I was feeling pretty crappy.  I had the crap kicked out of me by working a very difficult job in the hot sun on Friday for 7 solid hours without a break.  (I love unions!)  Still, it was a great experience in many ways.  I think the biggest way it was a good experience is that when I do a union show, very rarely does what I do last.  99% of my work seems to be setting up concerts, which have to be torn down and reloaded onto trucks the minute the show is over.  Kind of frustrating, but still there are many opportunities to learn.  What I did on Friday was help put up the boards for a rink in the community I live in.  It is a great resource for the disadvantaged kids that live in the area, a lot of them really rely on being able to come and borrow skates and a stick and play in the winter.  I wonder sometimes when the land the rink is on will be devoured by urban sprawl.  I was paid for the work, but it still feels good to work towards something positive.

Saturday during the day I had a couple of photography assignments for the newspaper I volunteer for.  The neatest part of that was that when I got to the Italian Senior’s Centre where they had the even I was shooting, they had the latest newspapers out on a table and a photo I took was on the front cover in brilliant color.  I also got a fantastic meal out of the deal and had a chance to learn more about my Nikon camera.

So anyhow, I was trying to talk about Saturday night and address the topic of creativity.  As mentioned, I wasn’t feeling all that great but I had enough pep in me to think up an idea for a short story.  I don’t want to tell too much about it, I have some people reading it and I am hoping to include it in a new collection some time soon.  The neat thing was the way I wrote it.  I took events from my life that were real, and used some of them, flipped around and changed a bit in the story.  Some girls I knew from my days at school became some kind of secret group of models and rich girls.  I took a friend I had and changed his name and had him change the plot of the story.  The neat thing was that just about all of the story came from real events, made unrecognizable by chronology and connections.  I once heard someone say that bad poets steal, good poets borrow.  I wrote a poem tonight that appears below and I have to admit that the hardest lines to write (the first ones-always the hardest for me!) were inspired by a Dylan Thomas poem.  One day when this blog gets more popular and I can get some interaction out of people I will be noting things like this and having giveaways to people who can name the poem I was inspired by and so on.  Something to keep in mind.

Well, I think that is enough talk about writing.  I am going to be facilitating a writer’s group soon (Wednesday) and I am strongly hoping it will go well.  I guess I have taught classes before, even much larger ones (in Air Cadets).  I think it should go okay.  Right now I am kind of having a problem and I know the solution, I am just having a hard time putting the changes into effect.  The problem is in two parts, (a) getting to sleep at night and a linked problem (b) I drink too much caffeine.  My previous Psychiatrist has warned me a number of times about the dangers of caffeine, but I have often felt that it was the thing that got me off cigarettes.  I even listened to a lengthy audiobook once about the dangers of caffeine.  I had a friend at work tell me once that he had once drank so many energy drinks that he became allergic to caffeine.  It would be so hard for me to quit, but I am starting to fear 100% abstinence is my only solution.  One of the problems I have is that I tend to reward myself with coffee.  If I play a fun video game and do well on it, I see drinking coffee as a reward.  If I went without spending too much money and actually end the day with money in my bank I reward myself with coffee.  For a while I was drinking only tea, but I was unable to keep that up.  It is funny what gives us addictions.  I started drinking tea, and actually got quite serious about having a quality cup of tea that I spent a lot of money on specialty teas and teapots and had all kinds of teas and brands and all that.  The tea phase in my life was started because I read a fascinating book by a man with the pen name Andy McNab who was once Britain’s highest decorated soldier and had been a key member of the SAS, a unit that has fascinated me for a long time.  How did I get addicted to coffee?  By attending 12-step groups!  They poured out the coffee by the ton, and soon I was drinking it just for something to do with my hands.  Now I am at the point where I need a cup of coffee to get me to sleep, my Dr. said that it means I have a certain level of caffeine that needs to be topped up or I get withdrawls.

All pretty grim, but the main problem really isn’t the coffee.  The main problem is that I am a person with Bipolar Disorder and not being able to stay calm and relaxed can be quite detrimental to my health.  Recently I started taking a tranquilizer to help me sleep and I am near the point of asking for a stronger one but I hate what that would do to me.  Every new pill has side effects, and as it is I try to take the tranquilizer as little as possible.  It is just that there are times when I really need to sleep and if I go to bed without help in pill form, it will often take me two to three hours of lying still to calm down enough to sleep.  Although I have been told not to take naps, it seems that is the only way I can continue to function.  I often take a nap before and after supper, and when I am in the middle of a serious writing project I will often sleep until it is near midnight, then load up on coffee and try to put out a reasonable word count.  It is funny because I don’t notice these sorts of things in myself, but when I wrote my first novel, “Green Mountain Road” my Dad actually told me it was hard to watch me killing myself to write this thing.  What I did then was to grab my laptop, head to an all-night McDonald’s and drink coffee or pop until I put out 5,000 words.  Literal craziness.  Anyhow, that is my rant, I don’t know if any of this helps, but I would sure like it if people would comment or even friend me on Facebook, I really like to discuss these sorts of things with other people with Bipolar Disorder, it can be very instructive and beneficial.  So if you like, friend me on Facebook at Leif Gregersen, and if you like my poetry, I also have a poetry page on Facebook called “Valhalla Books”.  All the best Dear Readers, stay real, and don’t forget to scroll past the below photo for today’s poem.

DSC_0064                  Here’s a photo of a very talented musician and kind human being named Bill Bourne who performed at a winter warmer event that I took pictures for this past winter. 

 

Changing, Growing

 

I often wonder what is the power that pushes upwards a flower

On and on until it becomes a bloom

And what is the divine force that guides a human life through its course

And like clockwork spins the phase of the moon

 

I once thought that if I gave all of me until the fall of me

Towards all things that seemed bold, noble and true

That the day would soon come while I was yet still young

That I would no longer feel so lost and blue

 

The fact is sometimes as it sits, single middle-aged life is the pits

And as time passes I often mull over all my love lost

Yet still there may be a chance to meet ‘the one’ and ask her to dance

But right now our paths have yet to cross

 

Though I am happy I guess and in some ways pretty blessed

When it comes to human bonding I am truly inept

Even as a young man with the world in the palm of my hand

I can remember sad times when I wept

 

But I kept the hope deep in me that one day I would be free

Of the chains that bind the nervous and shy

And then fate screwed with me bad and I lost all that I ever had

It was just like falling from miles up in the sky

 

I’ll admit though I got a good deal of it back when I changed my tack

By living clean, healthy and respectful of everyone

And what was so odd it seems that by letting go of my dreams

I still got to lay on the beach in the sun

 

Away on a far off shore I was able to relax recharge and explore

And I had some quality time to sort out my mind

Far away it didn’t matter that once I was mad as a hatter

All new friends only cared if I was giving and kind

 

So I stayed on those far off shores until people were sick of my snores

And I felt I could return with peace in my heart

Being away felt so good but I had to return to my neighborhood

It was there I had made a fresh start

 

Since then there have been wonderful days good in so many ways

All because I gave from deep down in my soul

Now I don’t need to be rich anymore, I just need to love and adore

My new friends and family that care and let me feel whole

 

Leif Gregersen

June 1, 2015