edmonton

Bipolar People and the Middle of the Night Poetry Musings

Please scroll past today’s poem to read today’s blog post!

Fall

By: Leif Gregersen

 

As I look out my bedroom window

Once stunning massive trees are now bare

And the temperature reads below zero

Dead leaves are everywhere

 

In the happy times

When I was just a little boy

The excitement of the season

Hinted at all the things I most enjoyed

 

Snowball fights in the school grounds

Cold nights bundled in my bed

Making snow forts in the back yard

Dreams of Christmas days in my head

 

Just a while longer

And the snow will fall

Skating, skiing, sledding

Always having such a ball

 

Now that I’m a grown-up

With not so many things to do

Except to keep my focus on

Loving, pleasing, caring for you

 

I’m now in my middle years

Almost past forty-five

There are still things to do and see

Though I admit I don’t feel quite as alive

 

And so I try to grasp onto my youth

By dating lovely girls like you

But the reality is the sad truth

That all the time I wish I could be born anew

 

October 13, 2017

 

Once Again It’s the Middle of the Night and I’m Wide Awake

Hello, dear readers! Well, my struggle continues. Today was actually kind of a great day, when I got up, I had to go to Staples with Taro (the manager of this building who handles my efforts to put on writing workshops). We had an enjoyable time having a quick coffee at Tim Horton’s, then I went to teach my class. I think it went really well. There weren’t too many people there, I think just five in total, but I really felt like I was in my element. I am starting to get better at handling classes with people who have mental health issues. One of the things I have noticed is that often people with these issues may be very confused about directions I give them and I don’t know if this is something cause and effect, but these people have a desire to speak and participate in the class even though it might be off topic. Today (creative writing) and yesterday (Wellness Recovery) I tried just letting them speak for a few minutes and then tried to direct them back to the material or gently encourage them to let others speak. It is actually really cool the way I am learning more about my own mental illness and my own writing skills as I do this. The only part that kind of worries me is that the person who was most supportive of my efforts to do the creative writing classes has been promoted and the new person may not be as supportive or trusting of me. The way I got this job was by going to a writer’s group and basically showing that I had enough knowledge to facilitate my own class.

To get back to the whole insomnia thing, I think one of my problems is that I have a few remedies in my cupboard that help me to sleep and I think sometimes I use them more than I should. One of them is melatonin, which works well but isn’t quite as much of a designer drug as some sleeping pills are. One of the problems with it is that it leaves you very drowsy even after a long sleep. When I take melatonin, I will get a good sleep, wake up to do what I must that day, then I have a strong desire to go home and sleep some more, which I often to and then I end up like I am now, wide awake at 2:00 in the morning. There is another side effect to it that I don’t know if everyone experiences, it happens when I take a lower dose than I need to get me to sleep, my lower back gets a restless, edgy feeling that completely prevents me from sleeping. I often have to get up and walk around or do something (like writing in my blog) to stop it from bothering me. My doctor has also said that if I have problems sleeping on occasion it is okay to take a couple of gravol. These anti-nausea pills give a pleasant sleep, but only if you are already tired enough to lay down. Also, I don’t like using them because I worry about dependancy and using a pill that wasn’t meant to help a person sleep. I feel that people with mental health issues walk a very thin line between abusing and carefully using our pills. The funny thing is that I seem to have no problem sleeping in the afternoon, and one of the ways I can sleep at that time is by taking a multi-vitamin which prevents me from having bad dreams.

So, no real solution to anything today. Just a lot of words about some sleep aid alternatives. I use one last method to help me sleep sometimes, what I do is just get up and write here in my blog. I honestly hope I am helping people by putting this out, please feel free to reach out to me if you like anything I have to say or want to chat. My email is as always, viking3082000@yahoo.com all the best!

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Original Poem and Stop Smoking Blog

If you live in Edmonton, you can get a lot of my books from the library by clicking here

Click here if you are interested in looking at some of my books for purchase on amazon.com

Please scroll past today’s poem for today’s blog entry about smoking and mental health!

Labor Day 2017

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Children laughing, shouting

Full of the joy of anticipation

For the good times and the bad

Of a fresh new school year

 

Now nothing more can hold back

The days of frost and snow

And those short days of precious little sun

 

Will Halloween come first

Or the biting winds of winter

As we cram in more learning

Into the minds of our little ones

 

When this time of year comes upon me

I think back to endless games of football

Played with no hint of coaches, pads or refs

Those were the truly special times the ones that I cherish

Playing, laughing with no one to impress

 

Later on a game that I called gauntlet

Dashing in front of snowball throwers

Lined up to put me to the test

 

So much time has passed now

Since those simple happy times

Two parents by my side at every turn

 

I wish that for just one moment

I could speak through the years passed

To all my childhood friends

 

I would tell them all the same thing

Make the most of every moment

Cherish all your loves and friends and family

And never act as though they owe you a debt

 

Time will pass you all by so quickly

Love with time will fade

Take in all the happiness

And sunshine you can get

 

Hello, dear readers! Well, much has been going on but I have mostly been stagnating in my apartment. There have been serious wildfires in British Columbia, the Province next door to Alberta where I live and the smoke has been hard on me. Maybe this is a good time to explain why the smoke is so hard on me and relate it to a mental health issue. I used to be a smoker. I smoked for 18 years, age 14 to 32. I can tell you exactly why I started, there were two events, one where my Dad asked me if I would like to try his cigarette and when I went to take a drag, he put his finger in my mouth and everyone laughed at me, and another time when I was at a Cadet dance with some friends and a guy pulled out some cigarettes and when I took a drag it was for real and I coughed my lungs out. I had a hard time dealing with people laughing at me and so I decided I was going to practise smoking so no one ever laughed at me again. This wasn’t that big of a deal for a while, but towards my last couple of years of smoking I had to buy the cheapest of the cheap brands of tobacco and I had a hard time controlling my smoking. This was where I think the real damage occurred to my lungs. I have had two lung tests, and they both say I have the lungs of a 74 year-old man. The reason I bring this up is because people with mental illnesses are one of the biggest consumer groups for tobacco, and no one wants to admit it. Tobacco soothes us, and nicotine actually helps regulate chemicals in our brains that cause things like delusions, hallucinations and such. I can remember being in the hospital having severe problems, and after I had two or three cigarettes I would start to feel a lot better. My lungs didn’t feel better, but my mental health started to right itself which seemed more important at the time. So basically, if you smoke and you have a mental illness, I suggest you try and quit. Some of the methods I have found helpful in keeping my mind of smoking are: nicotine patches, used in combination with nicotine gum (make sure to ask your pharmacist how to use these in combination and correctly) drinking a lot of water, switching from coffee to tea, going for long walks or even runs if you can. There is also a method that I am not really qualified to give advice on, but when I was younger and I tried to quit smoking what I did was every time I thought about cigarettes I would try and think about something that had more power over me. At the time I thought of a young woman I had been infatuated with, and it worked for two weeks with no other forms of help or support.

Anyhow, I hope some of this helps you. Thanks for reading today’s blog and above all, stay healthy!!

 

Do Bad Memories of Your Mental Illness Haunt You?

 

click here to find a therapist near you

Since they were so popular, I thought I would put links to my two television appearances at the start of this blog:

Click here to see me in an older TV Interview

Click here to see me in a short clip that ran this week

So, I thought I would talk a little about something that maybe doesn’t get a lot of attention but I feel can be extremely important in the lives of a person with a mental illness. I don’t know if anyone  has read my book “Through the Withering Storm” but in it I discuss being a teenager and going through a series of humiliations and negative events that still to this day bother me. One of the things I recall the most was growing up in a house with secrets. It was a secret that my Mom had a mental illness, it was  a secret that my Dad drank quite a bit. It was a secret that my Dad and I fought all the time. It scared me a lot that any of these secrets would come out to the public. None of them ever really did, but I think sometimes that living in that way, inundated with traumatizing events warped me as a youngster. But that wasn’t all. As I first became mentally ill during my teen years, I did a lot of things that I am extremely ashamed of, so ashamed that sometimes my memories can almost paralyze me. For example, there was a time when I was very out of it when I thought I was being told to get in a car with some strange people and I must have scared the hell out of the young girl I sat next to. Once I realized what was happening, I had enough sense to leave the vehicle, but I can’t imagine the fear I must have put this young woman through.

I could dwell on things I did when I was mentally ill all day, but I would rather try and offer my readers some kind of solution to thoughts like this. I am reminded of when I was 17 and there weren’t a lot of ways out there to quit smoking. Smoking wasn’t nearly as taboo as it is now but I wanted to quit. I decided I needed to train my mind to resist the power of smoking. I figured that if I could somehow make myself think of something that moved me more than smoking did, I would be able to quit. Basically what I did was, whenever I had a strong urge to smoke a cigarette, I would instead think about an attractive girl I went to school with and the images of her beauty took over (this specific example may only work for teenagers!) Now, later in life when I want to clear my head of negative thoughts, I have found a somewhat similar but very effective method of quelling thoughts about my past that are extremely negative and even debilitating. I have learned to meditate. It may seem funny that one would have to learn something like that, but there is a lot of learning an effort one must put into meditating to be able to clear their minds and also be able to control their thoughts when they are not meditating. I started out doing a lot of reading on the subject, which will only take you so far. Then I went to an actual Tibetan Monk in Edmonton and studied under him for a few months.

If I were to just cut things down to basics, Meditation is about trying to clear your mind, to declutter your thought process, which you train yourself to do, and to focus on something like your breathing to keep yourself centred. I have a virtual reality headset that I bought a meditation app for and it is amazing. You choose the relaxing setting and what type of meditation you want (I always choose Zen Meditation) and a narrator will talk you through a session of clearing your mind, breathing, focusing your thoughts. I even have an app on my watch that I often use to meditate for five minutes or so when it is convenient. When you can learn to control your thoughts, declutter your mind, you will be able to set aside negative thoughts and memories quite easily. I will try and write more on this topic in the next little while, for now, thanks for making yesterday a new record of views and all the best to you my dear readers!

 

 

Facing Up To Life Outside

Hello Dear readers! I thought I would just write a quick couple of lines before proceeding with today’s post. I haven’t been posting as much as I should lately, I suppose I have been feeling a little down and also I was pretty busy for a while. I am now going to try and take some time and build a better schedule so I can do more of the things I love to do, one being write poetry, another being photography, and yet another being writing this blog. There will be no photo today, just the following poem and a blog beneath it.

Fall Poem

By: Leif Gregersen

 

Winter nights are long forgotten often

In deepest summer’s green

Long hot walks, barbecues, and bike rides

And the air so fresh and clean

 

I guess I will forever wonder

Why I keep on living here

When I’ve sat in my car in minus fifty

Trying to keep my windows clear

 

When I look back to my early childhood

Those happy days leading up to winter break

I suppose if the weather were any different

The Christmas cheer would all seem so fake

 

A wise man and friend one said each season

Makes him appreciate the opposite extreme

And I have to admit in winter time

I get more time to write and think and dream

 

Then there is also a clear memory

Of being with my departed mom

Crunching fallen leaves as we walked

Just happy to be with each other, out in the sun

 

If I had to pick a season

That gave the most to me

I would be hard pressed to find a reason

Which meant more or less to me

 

As long as I can gaze up

At the stars and planets and the moon

And know I kept diligently working, never gave up

In either January or in June

 

I will always be able to accept any problems

With the passing of seasons and time

As long as I can still make something beautiful each day

Wasting your life is such a crime

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed today’s poem. It was kind of fun to write. I often mention that I am not sure why I stay in Edmonton when it gets so cold here and there are more fun places to be. For a time I lived in Vancouver and it seemed like every minute was another great experience. I liked a lot of things about Vancouver like the night life and the beauty of the mountains and all that. I have truly come to get used to Edmonton though, and Vancouver is much more expensive than Edmonton (which is actually still pretty bad). One thing I wanted to discuss is how people with mental illnesses can fall into a trap of thinking that all they need to do is move to be happy. I went through this for a while, and there were some advantages to moving, I can recall for a while having some very nice apartments, but the fact was I would have been much better off trying to get into a subsidized place that had some supervision. I definitely could have benefitted from more life skills training, not just in communicating and relating to others, but in the importance of a proper diet and actual skills on how to keep my home clean. I have to say that after many years I have arrived at an ideal situation where I now get those things, but I wonder if I would have had more growth in my life before that if I hadn’t emphasized living on my own and constantly moving.

Anyhow, that’s a short one for today. As always, feel free to give feedback, and keep working on your wellness!

Stress Management For Those With Mental Health Problems

(Please scroll past photo and poem for today’s blog 🙂

Love Poem

 

Not one of us will leave this world alive

We must show love to those we care for every day

Think upon all the things for which you strive

 

Do you think too much about the car you drive

Do you care about what others see and say

Not one of us will leave this world alive

 

There is truly just one way to thrive

One must give from deep within in every way

Think upon the things for which you strive

 

Caring, loving, giving is the only way to derive

A life with a special beauty like a grand ballet

Not one of us will leave this world alive

 

Sometimes into dark waters we must dive

Knowing nothing, only being able to pray

Think upon the things for which you strive

 

Give up plotting, planning, please don’t connive

For each thing you take you will be made to pay

Not one of us will leave this world alive

Think upon the things for which you strive

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/

When dealing with a mental health issue, stress can be your worst enemy. I want to write today about some of the ways I deal with stress, which can be all boiled down to setting boundaries.

One of my favourite Canadian authors, Margaret Laurence, mentioned in an interview I watched that she only writes about 2 hours a day and can’t manage more. I don’t know if Margaret ever suffered from a mental illness, but I have found this to be a good rule of thumb. While I feel it is really important to write every day, and that doing so will definitely make you a better writer, I try to maximize my screen time to about 2 hours a day. Sometimes I do less, and often when I am deep in the trance of writing something I enjoy writing, I do more. Of course, again I want to mention that one of the best therapeutic things a person can do is to write in a journal that they don’t let anyone see. It is such a great way to express yourself and to let out things. In a way, I like it that writing in a journal each day gives me a gauge to see how I am improving overall.

The next thing that I feel is good for stress is exercise. For a long time after my last hospital admission, my Dad would drive to where I was staying and take me to the beautiful Edmonton River Valley for a long walk. I was a smoker at the time and couldn’t handle anything much more strenuous than that, but it got me into better shape, a better state of mind, was an outlet for my extra energy, and led to me being able to find a paid job eventually.

Work is definitely something a person has to consider when they are in recovery mode from a mental illness. I honestly think that if you have just gotten out of a hospital or have just made the decision to start looking for work, you really need to take some time to feel 100% before venturing out and getting a job. I started with a job that was very easy, working as a security guard. I had a hard time with some employers either sending me to assignments that were too stressful or asking me to work too many hours, but there are  a lot of jobs out there for those who want to transition back into the workplace. My security guard job kind of sucked, the pay wasn’t very good and it often wasn’t healthy for me to stay up all night drinking coffee and trying to get what sleep I could. Soon though, I found a rhythm and was able to lift weight and swim and also work my job and I was ‘scouted’ to work as a security guard in the film industry and made leaps and bounds more than what I used to make and got into a union that greatly benefitted me over the next few years. Some other jobs that are low stress could be working in a gas station as a cashier, working as a dishwasher, and many others. Just remember you won’t be doing this forever, this is just to get you out of the house and make a little extra money. Better jobs will come your way if you are conscientious about your work.

Another way to make a transition back to the work world is to volunteer. In Edmonton where I live there is a company called the volunteer network and you simply approach them with your skills and they find a place for you. This is a great way to get experience, self-respect, friendships and much more.

The last thing I wanted to mention that I do to deal with stress is keeping my schedule as open as I can, only making firm commitments for a few days a week. I work for the Schizophrenia Society now and give presentations to many different groups about mental illness. I have had the incredible privilege of speaking in front of lecture halls full of students, among many other groups as diverse as junior high schools to Edmonton City Police Recruits. But I only book 2-3 assignments and then keep things open so I am free to go to the pool or the library or for a long walk whenever I want. I guess on a final note, I want to offer the suggestion that you try and live beneath your means, whatever they are and save as much as you can so that you can enrich your life with travel at least once or twice a year. A really good trip can give you a lifetime of memories and a lot of happiness and joy in the present.

 

Riding the Wave–“But I get the most work done when I’m manic!”

 

Click this link and find out here if a home based counsellor is able to help you

best-full-moon-ever

            Shot of the moon using my Nikon D3300 and a Nikkor 55-300mm lens, touched up with Lightroom by Adobe

Mania, depression, and delusions. What can pills help, and what do you need to watch out for yourself? (poem to follow this blog)

https://www.betterhelp.com/advice/therapy/how-do-i-find-a-therapist-near-me/

So it is the worst time of the year for just about everyone. Kids have to go back to school after just a 2-week taste of freedom and being lavished with candy canes and gifts by family. People who work in sectors like trades find that most of their customers spent all their money on Christmas and there is a big slowdown. The worst part? Suicides. Some may think that Christmas is the worst for suicides, but I have uncovered some information that may prove that January is the worst month for suicides. I can see why. I have been doing well in my recovery from mental illness for some time now, I was able to take some college courses, I took a University course last year and actually finished it. I have set up jobs and public appearances and have been working for the schizophrenia society. I sometimes wonder if I’ve been a little manic. I haven’t had delusional thinking much, but I have been finding myself increasingly troubled with sleeping memories of being in the hospital, likely because I now live in an apartment building rather than a house and I never liked the people who used to come around in the hospital and shine a flashlight in your eyes to see if you were sleeping. The flashlight almost always woke me up.

What I have been noticing is the early signs of depression creeping up. I don’t know about other places, but where I live there is only about 8 hours of daylight this time of year and sometimes lately if I have nothing to do or if it is oppressively cold outside (as it almost always is, -22 right now) I will sleep all night and then sleep all day. Then, at times like this when by all rights I should be going back to sleep, I get up and work on my writing. Today I was taken away from this pursuit because I learned the moon was full, and so I hauled out my camera and took the above picture among others. I don’t really know what to do about my depression. It has to do with a lot of things I am sure, including the diminished sunlight, the fact that I have a lot of time on my hands and that I have been isolating myself too much. My doctor has offered to increase my anti-depressant and I think I will call tomorrow to get an appointment and do so.

I am also thinking that with everything that has been happening, it is time to bite the bullet and go and see a counselor. For months I have been looking at the wall in the office of my apartment building and there is a list of free counselors there. What it all comes down to is taking care of myself. If I leave things too long I will pay the consequences. Just like needing a dentist or an optometrist, and going to them before you are in pain or blind, I really want to try therapy. From what I understand, therapy can be very effective for people with mental illnesses, though it is important that one stabilize their condition with proper medication before going to it. One of the things that makes me feel worried about what has been going on is my departed mother. When she died at 63 she still hadn’t gotten a handle on her mental illness and it was very severe. My mom had done so many things, from being a credit union manager to nearly getting a full scholarship to University. She tried so very hard and kept getting beaten down by one thing or another. I can see my mom in my brother and sister and myself in many ways. It really was a sad thing that her life had gone so poorly for her, and even at the end she struggled with her medications, moods and psychosis. One of the things she did back then was to see a psychologist and I learned to my surprise that she often talked about her mother, who had passed away about 20 years before my mom did. In many ways I feel pretty lucky that there are medications that help me deal with my own psychosis and mood swings, and do a pretty good job of it. With that, I will leave you with a poem and wish you all another week or so of good health and happiness, which is about the amount of time that will pass before I blog again.

 

Last Best Chance

My love I am always thinking of you

And how I have feelings that are true

I just don’t know how to say them out loud

 

In the dark deep night my mind begins to race

As I worry, fret and pace

Nothing seems to please me anymore

 

The first time I ever saw your face

Even my loneliness could never erase

The loveliness I saw deep inside your eyes

 

Each day that passes finds me here

With no friends or lover near

The only one I have to blame is me

 

There were many loves in my younger days

And I pursued them in my own weird ways

Never understanding I could ever end up alone

 

Plus I had so many true, close friends

On whom I always thought I could depend

But hard times took most of those away from me

 

I’ve been desperate and depressed

Sought forgiveness and went to be blessed

But found out it came down to not loving you enough

 

From the first day my life had begun

Fate made you the only one

I could have ever asked to be my true soul mate

 

So I ask if you could read these simple words

And not feel sad, scared or disturbed

I know you care for me just as I care for you

 

Things happen to each and every one

But you were always so loving and fun

Please forgive and take me in your arms again

 

I won’t make any promises to you

Except that each day will feel happy, fresh and new

Please tell me if you will, I just can’t wait

 

Too many years have already passed

You’ve always been the first and last

Give your love to me we’re each other’s last best chance

 

Gather Around The Fire and Let Me Tell You a Story

DSCF5089

Hello Dear Readers!  Well, it has truly been an eventful last few days.  I put a lot of effort into advertising and setting up a book signing and it went okay but I had expected much better.  I had the book signing at a wonderful and very supportive bookstore, in fact it is the last independent bookstore in Edmonton and it is called “Audrey’s Books”.  I put up a lot of posters around downtown and even got a couple of newspaper reporters, my good friend Scott Hayes in the St.Albert Gazette and a very cool guy named Cam Tait in his twitter feed.  It is hard to understand when is the best time or season to sell books.  One year I went to a craft sale at the hospital I was once a patient in and sold around 20 books and ended up with something like $400 in my pocket.  The next year I went back and sold next to nothing.  The cool thing is that I am building up a resume and will soon be moving from being a stage hand to teaching writing, selling books and giving talks about mental health and so on.  I have been giving talks about mental health now at schools for a few weeks and I really enjoy it.  I am starting to get more comfortable with speaking and I am getting a great response from the people I talk to.  It is all through “The Schizophrenia Society of Alberta”.  I don’t know if anyone out there has a branch of the Schizophrenia society, but they do a world of good.  Presentations at schools, classes in managing your illness and your rights and support groups and many other things.

Aside from all that, I am feeling good but I think it will take some time for me to adapt from a more labor intensive job to working in classrooms and such.  I have a few other frying pans in the fire which I hope will help me transition away from my stage hand job.   The first one is a class I would recommend for anyone, it is called WRAP or wellness recovery action plan.  I suggest anyone out there google it and look into it.  It is a fantastic program to get a person aware of their strengths and weaknesses and times when they may need help and how to set up plans for such times and many more things.  One of the neat things about it is it is peer led by people with mental health issues, which means the facilitators have gone through what you have and have come to a point of recovery.  The other neat thing is that once you take the WRAP course, you can ask to be put on a list and then take a more advanced course over I believe a 5-day period, 8 hours a day and then you can become a facilitator yourself and you get paid for it.  As for the other classroom things I was mentioning, I have been approached by a friend who leads a writing group to run his classes at some point soon for pay.  Part of the job will entail me going out and getting more people involved in the class, but I already have some good ideas for doing that.

I think though, even though it seems all this is a great thing, that I have to be very careful.  Having a full schedule can be rewarding in one way, but it cal also be extremely stressful and stress is definitely a trigger for me, as it is for many of us with Bipolar Disorder or other mental health issues, so I am going to be very careful not to overtax myself, make sure I get enough rest each day, make sure I set aside time for myself to just decompress and read graphic novels or listen to my favorite music.  Once again, I would love to hear from any of the people who follow this blog and encourage you to write to me at my main email, viking3082000@yahoo.com

Take care and scroll down past today’s photo for a poem I wrote today!

DSC_0050

Changes

 

It has been so long since the golden, breezy fall

It seemed at times that Spring wouldn’t come at all

We shoveled walks and waterproofed our shoes

Waited for signs of winter ending soon

Now finally we start to hear the songbirds’ call

 

Deep in the winter it is too easy to forget

Soon there will be sunny days without regret

We burrow in our homes and watch TV

Images of perfect skies and turquoise sea

Though few would leave this place on a bet

 

Myself I spend a lot of time reading at night

Peaceful and quiet imagining is my greatest delight

Worlds through mind’s eyes I never knew

Stories new or old, fiction or true

And to often take a pause and see the Northern Lights

 

In this green and growing city Edmonton

Where my life upon this Earth was first begun

I grew up with so many joys

So many friends, so many toys

I want to stay here until my life is done

 

Yes, we have a massive world class mall

And our boys have fought for Queen and Country like them all

But I feel our potential is so much more

That our many cultures can truly open up a door

I feel Edmonton has a higher call

 

First to address the brotherhood of mankind

Then equality for the disabled, sick and blind

Then equal rights of women and men

Take up your sword, your voice, your pen

We are leaders here, we must leave no one behind

 

It seems such a tall and impossible thing to do

But I want to put a challenge to all of you

India was freed by Ghandi, just one man

What he did any wise and pure soul can

We can do it, I believe in myself and I believe in you

 

 

Leif Gregersen

May 9, 2015

Story Slam and New Camera Day

DSC_0146Photo taken near my house with my brand new Nikon Camera

Today’s Blog:

     Well, I wonder what my growing list of regular readers would like to hear about today.  Last night I went to a ‘story slam’ competition and got up in front of a large crowd of people and recited a five minute story I wrote about my mom’s passing.  It was something that affected me greatly, I think I will post the story here for anyone to have a look at:

A TRIBUTE:

Mother. Mama. Mommy. Mom. So many names for the same thing, that one special person in all of our lives, in the lives of everyone here, everyone that ever lived has had a mother. Mine is no more.

 

The Catholics consider Mary Mother of Jesus to be the first Saint. She was the first one close enough to our Lord to appeal to him when wine ran out at a wedding. When the time came for me to perform a miracle for my Mom, I was unable.

 

It was six or seven years ago. My Dad was far away in Toronto at my sister’s wedding and I was taking care of my mom. At 63 she had just about everything go wrong with her that could. In her day, my Mother had been a bank manager, she had been an expeditor for a rail company. She had been her first family’s sole support at 16 and nearly earned herself a full scholarship to University. All she had wanted in life was to become a teacher, but she had to satisfy herself with teaching three kids.

 

Life and medications had taken so much out of her. My mom had turned from an intelligent and active adult to a child in a 63 year-old body. I had to answer to her every call, be it for her meals, for help to go to the bathroom, or even just to bring cold water. As I did these things, I thought of all she did for me and tried so hard to keep having patience.

 

One day, she called my name. The name only she could get away using. “Leify!” she said. Leify. Me, her little boy, the one she had carried and loved and spoiled.   And now she needed me.

 

I went in to see what was wrong. Her arms were flailing but she wasn’t speaking. I felt cruel and cold as I looked at her, tried to explain I didn’t know what she wanted. I put my hand to her chest and somehow I realized she wasn’t breathing. I don’t know how much time went by, but in what seemed like hours and at the same time like split seconds I had dialed 911. “Do you know CPR?” the operator asked. Yes, I have taken it many times, in boy scouts, in air cadets, I had read about it, even watched it performed once on a heart attack victim.

 

“No.” I had to reply. It had been too long, and this was my mom who wasn’t breathing. They told me to lay her flat on the floor. This I did, wondering how much damage I was doing to the back that suffered from crushed vertebrae and osteoporosis. I made a seal on her lips and blew, still being able to taste her last dose of medicine on her lips. I pushed on her chest a few times then tried to breathe life into her again. Nothing was happening.

 

In no time the paramedics were there. There was a lot of them, they crowded into my parent’s small apartment, pounded her chest and put a breathing bag over her mouth. They tried so desperately hard but nothing was helping. One of the paramedics told me she could still hear me, to not be embarrassed, to say what I wanted to her. “We all love you mom.” Is all I can remember saying. “We all love you mom.”

 

I was given a ride to the hospital and the paramedic explained that there was no hope to be had. At the hospital this was confirmed. I had to make a decision. She was brain dead and breathing through artificial methods. Her pain, her joy, her suffering, her crying fits and bedsores were all over now. I told them they could take her off life support.

 

It really was a beautiful thing, to be with someone when your end comes. Her breathing slowed, then stopped. I looked in her eyes and they seemed so alive, so real, I wanted to cry out that she wasn’t gone, that there was still a spark in her, but she was gone no matter how alive she seemed. I went into a waiting room, was given access to a phone and called my Dad to tell him my mom had died-on my watch.

 

It was discovered she had died of choking. Complications of acid reflux. Her and I shared a malady, the one that makes us take medications, we both had Bipolar Disorder. It gave us a special bond but it was also eating away at our souls and some of our vital body systems. My last true friend was gone, my mom. Three more days and she had an appointment to fix her throat. She didn’t have to die. She was a victim of waiting lists. I was a victim of guilt for many months.

 

My family goes on. My sister married and she has a child, a wonderful little child who had loved her grandmother. I look in her eyes and it warms my heart when she tells me she wants to grow up to be a teacher. Sometimes she cries because she misses her gramma. Now, I still reach for the phone when I want to talk to her, then I remember and pray to her instead. She can’t respond, but I know she can hear me. I know because when we visit her resting place I can feel her tears in the rain and her whispers in the wind. She will be in my heart forever.

CONTINUATION OF BLOG:

The story I read was just slightly different from how it appears here.  It must have been pretty powerful because when I got off the stage I noticed that three women were in tears.  One of them was one of the contest judges and she gave me the only 10 our of 10 of the night, though I didn’t win the competition.  Grieving a loss is a funny experience.  There have been times in my life when I was greatly worried that I was some kind of Psychopath or Sociopath, but after experiencing my mom’s death I realized that I do have a lot of compassion and feeling in me, I think I just register it differently.  The whole experience hit me from a blind side.  On the day my mom died I only cried one tear, as I held her hand after life support was taken off.  I was comforted that I was there with her, comforted that my name was the last thing she said.  I felt horrible for my Dad, worse for my brother and worse still for my sister who will always be reminded of her loss on her wedding anniversary.  I found myself doing odd things after my mom passed, I would lay in bed and say “mom” over and over again, I was in a bit of a fog of depression.  Now, seven years later, I feel a lot better about the whole thing.  My mom was the kind of person who made you feel very wanted, very needed.  I found my life somewhat lacking in purpose after she was gone.  I will never forget a friend of hers and an old teacher of mine who came to one of my book signings and said, “Your mom would be so proud.”  That meant a lot, but of course there was still the hurt that she never saw me publish a book and my mom dearly loved books.  I think though I will have to leave off there for now, it is early morning in Edmonton and I am extremely tired from lack of sleep.  Thanks so much for all those who have been liking my page and joining up, I hope you are getting your money’s worth out of reading my blog and that it moves you enough that you check out my eBooks and paperbacks.  All the best Dear Readers!

DSC_0038                    Downtown Edmonton’s Hustle and Bustle at Lunch Time Midwinter

 

More About Writing, Less About Poetry

DSCF5641                                              SUNRISE JUST OUTSIDE MY BACK DOOR

Hello dear readers.  It has been a couple of days since I posted anything and I don’t really know what to write at first.  I had a long talk with my sister, who has her Masters Degree in Education and she has been encouraging me to focus more on short stories and magazine/newspaper articles rather than poetry.  I don’t really know how to take this, for some time I have felt something lacking in my poetry.  One thing I do know is that if I want to publish poetry or have any success getting a book sized collection going, I can’t use anything I post here.  I think from time to time I will try and post some poetry though, but while I am in this thinking stage I am going to refrain.  I find though that I really love taking pictures (I just purchased a brand new $500 camera) and so I have no problem continuing with those efforts.  I also can put together blogs without any worries of copyrights or publishing problems, so I want to go on with that.  I think I should start writing in themes though.  One of the things I would most like to do is to help other writers who may be starting out, so to that end I am going to put after the second photo for today a copy of an article I wrote which was turned down, but still has some very useful information.  I would love feedback on what anyone thinks of it.

Perhaps one of the themes I could work on could be some of the interesting people I have met.  For some odd reason I am reminded right now of a 28 year-old African American I met while traveling the United States at age 19.  I had been living in truck stops, trying to hustle a ride from anyone who showed any sign or indication that they were going North to Vancouver, BC or anywhere in Canada for that matter.  I was outside enjoying a cool, crisp morning and looking out at the sand colored mountains of Southern California when I started talking with this guy (damned if I can’t remember his name) and he told me that he had thought of pursuing a career as a minister.  He seemed like a good guy to count as a friend in an otherwise unfriendly place, so I decided to hang out with him.  Him and I went to a shelter in the nearby town and got a meal, some clothes and an offer of a place to stay and work to be had.  For the most part my new friend was extremely entertaining, he told me stories that nearly made me split my gut laughing, but then out of seemingly nowhere he started to talk about a rape and a murder he had been an accessory to and it really freaked me out.  One of the scary things about big American cities is that by weight of sheer numbers a lot more people slip through the cracks of what is considered normal in Canadian cities and can end up being pretty scary.  I really wanted to get away from this guy, but I didn’t see any potential harm in hanging around with him for a while though the bells should have gone off way earlier.  Those were strange times, I remember when I got home from that horrible trip that I had two blisters each the size and thickness of a silver dollar on each foot thanks to the boots I was wearing.

Well, I am going to leave off things there.  Anyone who finds this little bit of a story interesting is encouraged to read more about this and other misadventures I experienced in my two books, “Through The Withering Storm” and “Inching Back To Sane” which are under the heading, ‘books’ in the menu of this website, both paperback and e-book formats.  As mentioned, I am putting an article I wrote below the photo, please leave any comments you like

IMG_4893

 

ARTICLE ON WRITING:

Writing is simple. Pen a document, print it up, send it away and get rich. Sorry, nowhere near that easy. Stephen King once said that if you can write something, get it published, get paid for it and the check clears, you are a writer. Cool! But where do you start?

 

Perhaps you are just starting out. Start with a good computer. I prefer a Mac Mini that I use only for writing and I have Microsoft Word on it, whick is considered the industry standard. An option is to download a program called OpenOffice which is compatable at www.openoffice.org for free.

 

Where do you go from there?   “The Writer’s Market 20–” is essential. Check it out at www.WritersMarket.com where you can sign up for their newsletter and get other information. The book, at around $30.00 US contains query letter templates, advice for writers, and tons of addresses of everything from agents to publishers and many magazines. It gives you almost all the facts you need, from who to address your query to, right down to how to get back issues (always try to read a publication before you submit to it) and what the magazine pays.

 

Now that you have the essentials, or are able to beg, borrow or use other creative methods to utilize them, start reading. Read, read read! Look for ‘short story’ stickers on fiction books in your library and check them out and devour them. Read magazines, literary and otherwise (read them in the library to save $$). Sometimes I will take a bus route that adds an hour to my morning commute just to have the time to tune out and read.

 

Magazines can be a great way to start your career. I started making money with magazines simply by browsing through a copy of Writer’s Market and coming up with ideas to query them with. Not all of the magazines took my offer, but I can safely say I have added a few thousand to my bottom line just from part-time freelancing.

 

Something important is to start getting your name known, and start getting your list of publications growing. I still love volunteering for my community newspaper for free because I have fun doing, it connects me with my neighbors and it gives me more clippings each month to add to my growing pile. Not to mention I feel the experience makes me a better writer. Don’t worry that at first you will get low paying or non-paying work, it all benefits you in the long run.

 

Something else I do is sit down and write a short story when I feel moved, or a poem. Every few months I these together into a book and have them printed up at www.createspace.com which is an imprint of Amazon. For the cost of a few hundred dollars for 50 or 100 copies, I get the extreme joy of seeing my name in print on a real book. I take copies to independent bookstores, I set up signings at places as varied as Farmer’s Markets and Hospital Gift Shops. It’s all on a small scale, but as time goes by, my list of guaranteed customers grows and presently, two of my books are being evaluated by distributors and another is being considered by a publisher. Will either of these make me rich? Not likely, success can be a long journey for a writer, it may never come, but I can assure you that the path is a rewarding one financially, emotionally and in a general feeling of happiness of having accomplished something truly worthwhile.