Friday, October 17, 2008

We’re alive!

I just finished watching the Leafs-Rangers game, and I’m positively thrilled that the Rangers won 1-0 in a shootout. That’s because I’m in a suicide pool this year. The idea is to pick a team to win a game on Friday, Saturday or Sunday. If that team doesn’t win, you’re eliminated. The next week we pick another team to win, but we can’t pick the same team to win more than once during the season. The last person standing is the winner.

The best part about this is that I’ve reunited with my old friend Blair Buchmann in doing this. Apparently I am seen as a hockey expert, so Blair asked me to advise him on his picks. He actually has two entries in the pool - he makes one pick and I make the other. We’re a perfect 3-for-3 so far. Tomorrow night Blair has picked Montreal to beat Phoenix.

I had a great time watching the game by myself. Christine is working the night shift and Jonas, bless his heart, has long since been asleep. He is an excellent sleeper. He doesn’t wake up during the night and is almost always good for 12 hours of sleep. I know there are some parents who want to smack me for revealing that. I am touching on wood that little Jonas continues his good sleeping habits.

As I watched the game I was really impressed by the play of Jonas Frogren and Luke Schenn. They were awesome on the penalty kill, throwing themselves in front of shots with reckless abandon. If Christine and I ever have another son, I think we should name him Luke - Jonas and Luke - only I would ever know the significance :-)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I’m thinking about becoming a motivational speaker!

Because I don’t have enough jobs already, I am looking into motivational speaking. Someone from Toastmasters suggested I do it - apparently it is quite lucrative. In the meantime, here is the text of a speech I delivered recently to Toastmasters. The purpose was to inspire people to action. Hope it worked :-)


Well good evening ladies and gentlemen. I’m going to be as upfront and direct with you as possible. I’m here tonight to inspire you. To inspire each and every one of you to get out of your comfort zone, to explore all that life has to offer, and to be a source of inspiration for friends and loved ones.

Some of you in this room are going to join me in embarking on a journey of self-discovery, but there are some of who won’t. And that’s a real shame, because what I’m about to tell you is the most important thing you’ll ever hear.

OK, do I have everyone’s attention?

Ladies and gentlemen, a little over three years ago I was living and working in downtown Toronto. I spent day after day riding the subway to work, then spent eight hours staring at a computer screen all day. Nothing numbs your mind more than working in front of a computer day after day, month after month, year after year. By the end of 2004 I was dead on the inside. I was so ridden with anxiety, paralyzed by fear that I could no longer see into the future.

I needed change.

So what did I do? I did what everyone would do. I moved to a First Nations community in Northern Ontario – a community accessible only by air. There was only one way in, and only one way out of Fort Albany. I knew the experience would either finish me off for good or give me the inspiration to face the future.

I’m not going to stand here and say that my life turned around the moment I arrived in Fort Albany. I endured many struggles there, so many that picking out one single low point is impossible.

It might have been in February of 2006. With my wife a few weeks pregnant, I was mired in depression, brought on no doubt by months of winter, where the temperature reaches –30 degrees C every day for a month at a time. On Valentines Day, the two of us found ourselves frozen to the bone in a Moose Factory hotel room. We were flown out of Fort Albany because my wife was having complications with her pregnancy and she needed to have some tests done. As we lay under the covers, shivering, we had no idea that this experience would ultimately make us stronger people.

Or perhaps the low point was a few months later, in April, when rising waters forced a partial evacuation of our community. Folks, believe me, you haven’t really lived until you’re boarding a twin-engine plane at 2 a.m., unsure of what to expect when you return.

For the next 10 days, we lived in a less-than-ideal hotel in Moosonee, never sure when we’d be able to return home. One evening we found ourselves in the back of an ambulance, with my wife experiencing terrible stomach pain. Turns out she and our unborn child would be OK. It was merely a case of food poisoning – the kind you get living in a certain hotel in Moosonee.

During this bleak 10-day period, a ray of light shone down on us. We had the opportunity to get an ultrasound, and decided we wanted to know if we were having a boy or a girl. We needed something to keep us going, and figured some exciting news in the midst of misery was needed.

Just as I suspected, we were going to have a boy. Suddenly the miracle of life took on a new dimension.

I’m going to rewind a bit now. It was during another low period, in December 2005, that I decided it was time for us to bring a new life into the world. I was sitting by myself in the Timmins airport on my way to meet my wife in Toronto. It was my first time away from the James Bay coast. Six months in the bush had taken its toll on me.

I was listening to a young couple telling another person that they were expecting their first child in February. It had been a difficult pregnancy for the expectant mother and she couldn’t wait to give birth. During the conversation, I made up my mind that it was time for us. Up until then, we kept telling ourselves that the timing wasn’t right, that we were too unsettled.

I got to thinking about my first six months in Fort Albany - about how random life is. For the first time in my life, I had seen true suffering. I had friends who were helpless to their addictions, who never had the opportunities I did. And here I was, wallowing in self-pity.

At that exact moment, I chose life.

And so, I urged each and every one of to consider how short life is. Think about what you can do to step out of your comfort zone.

Because I stepped out of my comfort zone:

I saw the northern lights dancing against an icy sky.

I saw the sun rise over water that was as still as glass.

I saw the smiling faces of people whose skin was a different colour than mine.

I rescued a shivering puppy from a ditch and gave it life

Because I stepped out of my comfort zone, I held a newborn baby for the first time.

You know it’s funny, of all the memories I have of Fort Albany, I keep thinking about what it felt like to hear the wind howling outside on a cold January night, as I gently rocked my son to sleep while listening to CBC radio. Those are the moments you never forget.

Ladies and gentleman, I stepped out of my comfort zone and created a lifetime of memories for myself.

I ask each of you to think about what your Fort Albany will be.

Thank you.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

American Politics

Instead of watching the Canadian leaders debate, tonight we watched the U.S. Vice-Presidential debate. I’m not sure what that says about us, but I’m not particularly proud of it. Hopefully the Canadian debate will be replayed because I do want to see it. Too bad both debates were on at the same time.

Like most folks, I tuned into watch Sarah Palin. I can’t believe how low the expectations were for her entering the debate. She didn’t fall on her face, but under no circumstances did she win the debate - despite what the pundits on Fox News are saying right now. This is a fact: Fox News poll says 86% thought Palin won and 12% thought Biden won.

On the other hand, a CBS poll has it 46-21 in favour of Biden.

Which poll would you trust?