Friday, 29 September 2017

DO WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY

Heart racing, stomach flip-flopping, and palms sweating, he sat and waited, barely able to breathe. He had thought that the ten-day period between biopsy and doctor's appointment was the most unbearable wait of his lifetime, but these final twenty minutes sitting in his specialist's office would prove to be even more tortuous.

Jim's journey to this moment began with rising PSA levels. A prostate biopsy confirmed the presence of cancer, moderately aggressive, but thankfully not widespread. Because success and survival rates for men of Jim's age and excellent health are high if this cancer is detected and treated early, we were disappointed with the diagnosis, but not panicked.

When prostate cancer cells metastasize, they generally spread to the bones. An MRI was ordered by Jim's cautious urologist to ensure that his prostate cancer was indeed localized. To Jim's great relief the MRI showed that his bones were clear. BUT! Why is there always a 'but'? I hate 'but's' in a doctor's office. BUT the MRI revealed a lump on a lymph node in Jim's groin. "99% chance that it is cancer" were the words that sent Jim's initial elation into a tailspin. If it was cancer, it would have to be dealt with first. Shelve the prostate surgery. Now we panicked!

Feeling like a human pin cushion, it was back to the hospital again for a second biospsy, this time under CT scan and of a lymph node.  A stressful ten days later found Jim sitting, awaiting the results. "Mr. Lockett". The nurse's call broke his frantic musings. No BUT'S, though, this time. "Mr. Lockett, the 1% chance that the lymph node would not be cancerous is you!" Elation! Joy! Relief!

Late in October, Jim will undergo a radical prostatectomy. Not something he is looking forward to, especially after his hip revision surgery in March, but with the spectre of a cancerous lymph node negated and the high success rate of such surgery, Jim is now more philosophical than worried.

I have a very dear friend in Uxbridge, who in her life has experienced more than any human being ever should, but remains beautifully upbeat about life. She is my hero and my inspiration. Her mantra and what she frequently professes to me is, "Do what makes you happy." How wise.

Jim's health scare brought home to both of us what is most important in life. Why do we need close calls to remind us that our lives are not dress rehearsals? Live, live, live every day doing what you enjoy most. From hence forth we will make an even more concerted effort to do what makes us happy!!



Sunday, 9 July 2017

SUMMERTIME NOSTALGIA

My daughter-in-law, Michelle, posted a series of photos of our grandson, Zachary, at their cottage. I love the collage; not only did it make me smile with its images of pure summer joy, but memories of childhood summertimes flooded my emotions. Rose coloured glasses on, I was carried back to those simple moments.


Holding our collective breathes, we waitied for that second when the final school bell of the year rang. Then enmass we raced from our classes into the carefree sunny, hot, humid days of vacation.


No computer games, iPhones or iPads held our attention inside. Summertimes meant creating our own entertainment OUTside. I don't ever remember feeling bored. We climbed any tree with substantial enough branches, ran joyously through the sprinkler, played endless games of hide and seek, challenged each other in bicycle tag or picked up a rag-tag game of baseball. Happy and sunburned we returned home for dinner when our mothers rang the bell or blew the whistle, each carrying its unique family call. Dinner eaten, we jumped up from the table eager to once again head outside 'until the streetlights came on'.


Thinking back, I can even hear the music of summer - the hum of industrious bees, the chirp and call of birds, the shrill buzzing of cicadas and best of all, the tinkling of the ice cream truck.

Life was good; it was summertime. As those summers ended so ultimately did our childhoods. "We didn't know we were making memories; we just knew we were having fun." Thank you, Michelle, for your beautiful collage. To our grandchildren, Morgan and Zachary, have fun and soak it up. You are making lifetime memories.

Friday, 30 June 2017

I AM CANADIAN

I am Canadian. Sounds obvious, doesn't it? However, for much of my early life I remember defining myself not so much as Canadian, but more as what I wasn't. My Father's family haled from England; York to be exact. My Mother's family were Barbadian. Here I was, born in Canada. I was not British. I was not Bajan. I was Canadian. But the true beauty of those three words had not yet sunk in. I was too young to appreciate them.


My early education consisted of no daily pledges of allegiance, no excessive flag waving and no nation-centric history. I learned as much about U.S. and European history as I did, Canadian.

American TV and news dominated my adolescent and teen years - the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy and King assassinations, the Vietnam War, the LA riots...... Although I was not an American, my attention was frequently riveted by happenings south of the border. I was Canadian, but my psyche read that often as "not American". I was, though, beginning to appreciate the "not American".

As with most concepts, what it truly meant to be Canadian began to take form as I aged, matured and travelled. It is said that, "The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page." How true! From Ucluelet on the west coast of Vancouver Island to Cape Spear in Newfoundland  Jim and I have been awestruck by the sheer vastness and breathtaking beauty of our Canada. Not infrequently have we been reduced to tears by the glorious landscape before us. An appreciation of our settlers, whether gold rush miners seeking their fortunes, prairie farmers battling the elements, voyageurs exploring our waterways or fishermen arriving on our shores in search of cod, these early adventurers' bravery, ingenuity, struggles and ability to survive the hardships of their new world form the basis of our nation today. And then there are the welcoming, interesting present day fellow Canadians of every religion, race and language group who we have met along the way. The seed of understanding what it means to be Canadian took root.


Travelling overseas put the blossom on the seedling of my citizenship gratitude. Of course there is much to be learned from other countries - Swiss seniors and their extraordinary level of fitness, Italians' passion for family and life, to name a few. With the exception of Ireland, which we found to be massively pro-USA and marginally disappointed to discover that Jim and I were not American, great admiration for Canada exists. To a greater degree than many Canadians, Europeans recognize what our nation has created. How often we have been eagerly hugged by an Italian, "Canadese, si" or met with a Frenchman's huge smile, "Canadien, ah oui". During our travels we have been gratified to discover that Canada is universally respected and admired.

Flying home from the European continent or from the U.S., there is nothing I now love more than entering Canadian airspace. No, I am not a nervous flyer. Being in Canadian airspace means that below me lies my great nation. My eyes lovingly take in the rivers, lakes, green fields, cities and towns passing below. I am blessed to be home once again.

Our little town of Uxbridge has sponsored five Syrian families from Aleppo. To see Canada through their eyes, to experience their sheer joy at their new life filled with safety, peace, and friendliness fills my heart with love for Canada and the haven we have offered to so many over the past 150 years.

Yes, this understanding of what it truly means to be a citizen of our beautiful country has been a learning and growing process. But today, on Canada's 150th, I say a quiet thank you for the country of my birth, the 'true north strong and free'. My heart swells with understanding, love and gratitude as I say I AM CANADIAN.












Friday, 16 June 2017

MIRROR, MIRROR.....AH, REALLY?

As an child, I was plagued with body image problems. My issues were not the result of the skinny models in ads nor were they caused by growing up with the impossibly-figured Barby Doll. Even then, I had enough intelligence to realize that those did not represent the norm. My Mother, god bless her soul, was relentless in her determination to create a thin elder daughter. It never dawned on her that her gourmet cooking skills and dessert after every meal may have been at the base of my problem. My sister, who was slim and beautiful, ate what I ate. It never occurred to Mom that Jo possessed the metabolism of a race car and me, of a slug, Nor did my Mother ever understand that her ongoing negative comments about my weight would have a life-lasting impact, that, no matter what my weight, I would never learn to accept my physical image.

I believe in my heart that Mom felt she was encouraging me. Child psychology was not exactly front and centre at that time. Sadly, in those formative years, comments can bury themselves deep in one's psyche. Motivational speakers refer to, "garbage in, garbage out". What you believe is what you are. Take it from me, don't ever 'encourage' your child in that manner.

"You are big-boned like your Grandmother Brown; you take after her. Your sister takes after the Toppin side of the family." Not only was my Gramma Brown obese, but I found her to be a nasty, negative person whose company I never enjoyed. Granny Toppin, on the other hand, was slim, generous and gentle. Try mentally absorbing that comparison as a child. I wanted to cry with joy when my family doctor confirmed that I do indeed have a slow metabolism and that I am not 'big-boned'.

Mom's best comment? "No one will ever want to marry you." Dear God, who says that to a young teen? Guess she didn't count on Jim.

As I passed into my late teens and into my own life - university, wife and mother, real estate broker - I found strength in my accomplishments and body issues faded. I graduated "summa cum laude" from U of T, married a fun, loving, wonderful man, raised two fine young sons, became a grandmother (!), and worked my way up through the real estate industry to own my own brokerage and earn invitations to serve on both Toronto Real Estate Board and Real Estate Council of Ontario Committees. My confidence soared.

Only lately, as time passes, have I noticed the reemergence of my body image problems. I hate seeing my image in windows, photos....whatever! Even worse, I hate trying on clothes. It is stupid really. I exercise regularly, am very fit, have a resting heart rate in the 60's, "admirable" blood pressure and low cholesterol counts. My life is good and relatively healthy.


Perhaps my current issues stem from the loss in retirement of my career identity or the irreversible aging process and its impact on my body. What I do believe is that those negative comments, long buried in my psyche, are sneaking out.

Why write this now? This morning, I was enjoying a pre-swim coffee when I glanced out the window and watched a woman, dressed in a hot coral tank top and knee length tight black leggings, walking purposely into town. So what? Honestly, this lady has fifty pounds on me. I would be horribly self conscious dressed as such, but she looked absolutely, glowingly beautiful, exuded confidence and "owned her appearance". She is my new hero. I was truly envious. So it's time for some self talk. Time to exize my demons once and for all! Don't allow my psyche to bully my self image.That is my new retirement challenge. Now where can I buy a hot coral tank top and some black leggings.


Wednesday, 24 May 2017

TRUE GRIT

I love and want a clean home; I hate and abhor housework! There, I admit it.

"Just get a cleaning lady", you suggest. Welllllll? I had a cleaning lady when I worked, but upon retirement decided to take on the odious tasks myself. "You'll have all sorts of spare time", I reasoned with myself. What was I thinking?

Housework is mundane, boring, tedious, tiresome, the same old same old. Tell us how you really feel, Daphne! What you clean today is messy again tomorrow. Thankless! I avoided that kind of mindless career only to now find myself during retirement in a repetitious routine. Ugh! Me-time has become increasingly precious and housework impinges on it. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Don't get out your mini sympathetic violins yet. I'm only publicly feeling sorry for myself because this spring has been the absolute worst. Fighting winter's snow and ice, Uxbridge Township rarely uses salt on the roads; sanding is their preferred method. I support that policy except when springtime breezes whip up the dry sand spinning it up into the air currents. Our driveway, a long stretch of scruffy, cracking, pitted asphalt is being replaced, which replacement requires that after the old asphalt has been removed, the gravel base settle and be compacted for four weeks. Oh goody, more dust in the air. My mulch obsession, which when dry, produces even more........yup, dust! Oh, And don't forget to add yellow pollen to the mix.


Springtime is the time of year, before air conditioning is required, when we can open our windows and enjoy the glorious, fresh Uxbridge breezes, the very breezes carrying winter sand, driveway dirt, mulch dust and pollen into our home. True grit? No, it is not the fortitude and determination with which I attack housework. That's actually laughable! True grit is what daily covers our furniture, dark floors, window sills, and, and, and. What I dusted off two hours ago, requires dusting again. Ah come on!

"What did you do today."
"Dusted, dusted and dusted!" Inject growl here.


And so ladies and gentlemen, l am thinking of allowing the gritty dust to build up on our furniture, floors and sills and then of opening a doodling camp. It is said that doodling is good for relaxation!?! Registration is free. We could, if persuaded, serve wine while you allow your creative juices to flow. Anyone interested?


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

WHACK! #@&@*! WHACK!

The smell of the newly mown grass, the variation of vibrant greens, and the panorama of a blue, white cloud-studded sky made my heart swell today. In spite of the biting cold and Michelin-man clothing layers, it was great to be back on the golf course again......finally!

Make no mistake. In no way do I possess even a scrap of talent for the sport. Discovering the passtime late in my life, after retirement actually, and in spite of my horrible game, golf has stolen its way into my heart.


Being outside on a slightly breezy day and breathing in the fresh air of wide open green, green spaces is a long awaited, post-winter tonic. I feel alive again! The beauty of many courses is enough to take your breath away, my all-time favourite being Rancho MaƱana in Cave Creek, Arizona. Truth be known, with those views, if it weren't for Mr. Trump, I could take up residence there.


Aside from the value of exercise. golf is good for my aging brain.......I think! If I was a cartoon when teeing off (driving), the 'thought bubble' above my head would read, "Concentrate. Straight left arm. Breathe. Slow take away. Shift weight. Head down. Keep your eye on the ball. Don't love your shot. And swing........" Try to run all of those thoughts through a seventy-year old brain within a thirty-second period. Aaaach! Phyllis Diller once said, "The reason a pro tells you to keep your head down is so you can't see him laughing." For me......true! Oh, I should mention that golf has been the cause of my increased vocabulary. Who knew that "fabo" means "f**king aweful, but on"? Hah! Obviously my knowledge of the English language is increasing in leaps and bounds.

What? You like fashion? Nowhere have I seen so many peacocks sporting bright colours. Shoes, hats, sunglasses, shirts, shorts, belts, shirts...........the fashion possibilities are never-ending. Where else do you see men in pastel pants and colourful socks?  Now, if only I could muster the courage to wear this:


The camaraderie of a golf foursome, whether family or friends, is nothing short of awesome. The serious shot analyses, group groans, congratulations, bubbling laughter and the 19th Hole continue to draw me to the game.

And finally there is hope. Whack! #@&%*! Ah well, the next shot will be better.

Oh my God, it was great to be back today ladies. Thank you!












Friday, 5 May 2017

A SILENT THANK YOU

While waiting for Jim at Sunnybrook's Holland Centre, I sat transfixed by the incoming parade of patients. New and returning, borderline destitute and well heeled, white and coloured, obese and gaunt, aged and young. Overwhelmed by the cross section of humanity, I said a silent 'thank you' for Canada's universal health care system. Each of these patients, with or without pre-existing conditions,  could afford the care that would potentially improve their life.

Relax! Don't yell! I didn't say that our system is the best the world has to offer. The Netherlands and Scandinavian countries I think lay claim to that prize. I also understand fully that our system is not perfect. Jim is a prime example - a botched surgery and midnight MRI appointment. Yes, I said midnight! Wait times are a plague - waiting for a doctor's appointment, waiting in the ER, waiting for elective surgery. Two of my friends have opted to pay the cost of almost immediate joint replacement surgery in the U.S. rather than painfully wait in Canada.

Yes, our system needs tweaking from its 1960's inception model. However, my Health Card, aside from out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions, dental work and eyeglasses, means that I and my fellow Canadians will rarely bear crippling health care expenses.


Not so for our neighbours to the south. Under Trump's new health care bill, many people in their sixties will see their premiums rise by thousands of dollars; some could see their premiums double. An American medical friend of ours, before Obamacare, spoke of seniors crippled and wheel chair bound because joint replacement surgery was too expensive for their limited incomes. What civilized society finds this acceptable?

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel, in emotionally speaking of his son's heart scare, said, "If your baby is going to die and it doesn't have to, it shouldn't matter how much money you make......." and then with his voice breaking, he added, "No parent should ever have to decide if they can afford to save their child's life".  Kimmel's heartfelt speech was met with a most disgusting response from Joe Walsh, a former Congressman from Illinois. He tweeted, "Sorry Jimmy Kimmel: your sad story doesn't obligate me or anybody else to pay for someone else's health care".  Remember these words when next you step into Sick Kids Hospital where cutting edge, life saving medical care is blessedly free for Canada's next generation.


It should be noted that the surgeon who saved Kimmel's son trained at Sick Kids in Toronto. Jim's surgeon, Dr. Gollish, developed the surgery which will allow Jim to walk properly again. The majority of our doctors, nurses and physiotherapists are second to none.



Christopher's friend, Stephanie, spoke of her doctor father's decision to leave South Africa to practise in Canada where the health care system is a "shining example". Remember to say a silent thank you next time you flash your Health Card and receive quality, free treatment. Thank you Tommy Douglas for your foresight. Thank you Canada for your compassion.