Thursday, 26 January 2012

Second Opinion - by Erin Sands

Last week I took my bike to an upscale, fancy looking bike shop in Point Grey to get repaired. I had been having trouble with the chain for a few weeks and my bike had become unridable. The man at the shop looked at my bike, spun a few things and poked around and came to the conclusion that my bike was in bad shape. He told me I needed many parts replaced and that it was going to cost me around $60-$70.
I decided to get a second opinion.
I went to the local bike shop on campus run by students. I was greeted with a friendly, young guy who welcomed me in. He spent some time with my bike. I stood there with a look of despair on my face since I thought this was going to cost me a pretty penny. The guy looked at me and simply said “Here’s the problem. Your shoelace is caught in the chain”. He removed it and my bike was good as new!
I asked how much I owed him and he said "you don't owe anything but if you want, we have a tip jar at the front and even some spare change would be awesome".
 When my dad was first diagnosed with ALS he refused to accept it. He demanded a second, third and fourth opinion. Although the answers he got didn’t get better, he never lost hope that things could be better. Something I have learned from my dad is to never settle. Seeing the hope and faith this man continues to have inspires me. Although he has been told that he needs a lot of “replacements” and the cost is pretty pricey, he still has that hope that a doctor out there is going to discover that all he needs is a little tweak and he will be all better. My Dad has taught me more than any textbook. He taught me my times tables, how to hit a baseball and strategies for playing nicky-nicky nine doors. He taught me how to write an essay, how to make “moon toast” and that you are never too old to trick-or-treat. I have learned so much from my Dad, but the most important lesson I have learned is to never give up and never settle for anything but the best. And of course, always have hope.
 A woman tells her doctor, 'I've got a bad back.' The doctor says, 'It's old age.' The woman says, 'I want a second opinion.' The doctor says: 'Okay - you're ugly as well.'
                   Erin and Mike after after running the Vancouver Sun Run a few years ago

                                  Mike and Erin at Erin's University Graduation - Spring 2011 

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Happy Bar Mitzvah Leroy!

The most memorable birthday cake I ever had was a cake that Mike got me about 12 years ago that said, “Happy Bar Mitzvah Leroy”. He said he couldn’t pass up the really good deal he got on the cake that someone ordered, but never picked up. So now it’s common in our family to hear “Happy Bar Mitzvah Leroy” on your birthday instead of the usual “Happy Birthday.” I believed Mike’s cake story for about a minute and a half. I had been with him long enough to know he ordered the cake that way to make things a little more interesting.
It was Mike’s 50th birthday last Monday, which you would know if you read his last blog post, Hawaii 5-OLD. I asked him about a week before how he felt about turning 50 and he said he felt good about it. He said he feels like he will have “made it” when he turns 50. 
It’s funny because Mike had a thing about his age when we first met. I was 19 and he was 23 when we got engaged, that’s when he told me he was really 26. Had I known his real age when we met, I might not have dated him…I might have thought he was a little old. I did wonder how he accomplished so much for a 23 year old though; an extra grade in high school (there was grade 13 back then in Ontario), three years of university, two years in the army, a job as a forest ranger, a job as a life guard, some travelling and so on. When he told me he was really 26 that made more sense.
Mike got over the age thing a while ago and when he was diagnosed with ALS in March, his 50th birthday became a desired milestone. He would say if he could make it to 50, he would be happy. He would also say that lots of people would have been happy to make it to 50.
The couple of weeks leading up to Mike’s birthday were filled with grief for me. I have come to realise the grieving process happens in stages, and as the illness progresses, the degree of difficulty accepting the changes increases…and grieving the losses comes with that. But January 16th was a day to celebrate! We had to take our eyes off what has been lost and focus on what has been given.
Mike has accomplished so much in the half century he’s been around. He has also impacted the lives of so many people in a positive way and has been a huge blessing to me and countless others…the world is a better place because of my guy, Mike!
To Mike: Happy Bar Mitzvah Leroy...and many more! May the Lord bless you and keep you!
A snowy walk on Mike's birthday

Mike's favorite cake - Sarah Lee Strawberry Cheesecake

A gift from my sister and fam...a picture of an owl with the words: "The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their cry." Psalm 34:15

               Leah helping Granddad blow out the candels on his other cake - a DQ Ice Cream cake

Monday, 16 January 2012

Hawaii 5-OLD - Mike Sands

I turn half a century today!  Many people believe 50 is the age where we can consider ourselves on the ‘old’ side (at least that’s what many people younger than us may think).  Mark Twain believed that we shouldn’t worry too much about growing old.  Twain’s routine in the morning was to get up, look at the obituaries and if he wasn’t there, he would carry on as usual.  My routine has changed over the years.  Getting older takes its toll on the body.  Not all your body parts are as co-operative as they used to be.  ‘Getting a little action’, now means I don’t need to take any fibre today, and an ‘all nighter’ means not getting up to pee.  You know you’re getting older when your wife says, ‘lets go upstairs and make love’ and you say ‘pick one, I can’t do both’.  Your physical body isn’t the only part to take a toll; your mind isn’t as sharp either as they say three things begin to go when you get older; first, your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.
     Getting older has its upside as well.  As we age, we become wiser.  We have gathered knowledge and experience and turned it into wisdom and understanding.  We always think of older people slowing down as a negative aspect, but in fact, it is positive.  Older people are slower to respond not necessarily because their faculties have been dulled, but because they’ve learned that a quick response sometimes gets us into hot water.  They’re still playing with a full deck, they just take a bit longer to shuffle.
  When I got up from bed on my 50th birthday today, I was determined to keep a fresh outlook on things, given the milestone day I faced.  As I came down the stairs in the morning someone asked me, ‘how do you feel?’  I said ‘like a newborn baby!  No teeth, no hair and I wet myself in the night”.  Not really, I still don’t have a grey hair on my thinning head, I have at least 30 of my teeth still, and am I Incontinent?  Well that DEPENDS.  I still try to be young at heart, but it is difficult sometimes when you’re around your kids as our generations are so disparate.  Taking them through an antique store with and you saying, ‘I remember these”, doesn’t help.  Sometimes you feel like you were born on a different planet than them as they have never experienced life without cable or a remote control, making popcorn anywhere other than a microwave, using a bottle opener instead of having twist off pop bottles.     
     I’ve learned a lot in my half-century and will keep learning; just today on my 50th I learned that at 20 years old I worried what others thought of me.  At 35, I didn’t care what they thought of me.  Now today at 50, I’ve discovered they hadn’t been thinking of me at all. It’s important that when we get older, that we not lose the desire to keep learning; when we sit back and are content to just reminisce about the good old days, then that is a sign of old age.  As well, we can’t regret growing old as it is a privilege that many people do not experience.

                                               "Young" Mike with much older sister Pat

                                                "Old" Mike (Granddad) with Leah

Monday, 9 January 2012

Faith Like a Child

I decided to ditch Madison’s hockey practice this morning and go to church with our son Nathan and his little beauty, our granddaughter Leah…it was a good decision. After some singing and announcements, the children were dismissed to their appropriate Sunday school classes. Leah got up right away and so did Nathan. They started to head to Leah’s pre-school class and Leah reached out for my hand. The three of us headed to her pre-school class room with the other little darlings.
I have gone with Leah many times to the child minding and stayed and played with her during the church service, but recently (even though she is still only two for a few months) she has been going to the pre-school class with the three to five year olds. And she has stayed by herself a couple of times.
Today, though, Leah wasn’t going to let me go. Nathan left after a few minutes, but 'Grandma' had to stay and that was okay by me. First we playing in the spaceship, then we did some coloring. We watched some of the other children do some puzzles and play with the toys. Then it was time for the Sunday school lesson.
We gathered on the brightly coloured mats on a carpeted area in the middle of the room. We sang three short songs with actions. Then we sat cross-legged on the floor while the teacher gave the lesson. It was from Matthew 14 – Jesus Feeds the Five Thousands: When Jesus arrived; He saw a large crowd and began to heal the sick. When it got late, His disciples said that He should send everyone home so they could eat, because they were very hungry. Instead, Jesus had everyone sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves of bread and two fish that He had and gave thanks and then gave the food to the disciples to hand out to the people (about five thousand). They all ate and were satisfied and the disciples collected twelve baskets of leftovers.
The teacher did a great job maintaining the attention of the two and a half to five year olds, telling of the miracle Jesus performed that day in about three minutes. A story I love… a story that has reminded me over the years of the unlimited power of our Lord…and how He takes care of His listener's needs. The children liked the story as well, then they did a craft. I helped Leah glue her fishy crackers and bread sticks to the picture of the basket the children were given. (Most of them just ate the fishy crackers)
After the church service was over, my sister who was also there commented on the really great sermon. For a second, I thought, oh darn, I missed a good message, and then I thought, NO I didn’t.

                        You must have faith like a child to enter the kingdom of heaven - from Matt 18

Monday, 2 January 2012

Not So Great Without My Mate

If you read my last blog post, you would know that Madison and I were in Calgary for a hockey tournament this past week. We came home New Year’s Eve morning and were happily greeted by Nathan and Mike. Mike was pleased to report that Erin took great care of him while we were gone and everything went well.
For weeks before we left, I had been anticipating being away from Mike. I was worried that something would happen, or that he would need help and no one would be there for him. Something I didn’t anticipate was escaping ALS. I missed Mike right away, but I didn’t miss ALS, and I felt guilty and sad. I felt guilty because I could escape ALS, but Mike couldn’t and I felt sad for the same reason.
One afternoon, we had a few hours of free time, so I ventured out for a long walk. It was a beautiful, sunny day, so I headed to the Bow Valley Trail, which wasn’t far from our hotel. It was a gorgeous walk and all I kept thinking about was how Mike would love this walk.
One of our favourite pastimes is walking.  We used to love going downtown (Vancouver) and just walking for hours…the streets or the sea wall, or both. We have walked trails and paths that lead to unknown places and many trails and paths we knew well. We have walked the dikes, around lakes, along beaches and up mountains. We love to walk around our neighbourhood and other neighbourhoods…and so on.
I was able to walk briskly along the Bow Valley Trail the other day, but would have enjoyed it much more with Mike at the snail’s pace we walk at together. I thought of the last walk Mike and I went on together; it was Christmas night and Mike was staggering more than usual. I held his arm and we walked through our neighbourhood looking at the Christmas lights. We went to the house around the corner that Erin has nick-named ‘The Vegas House’ and observed the thousands of lights like we had a few times before. There were cars coming and going and people standing along the black wrought iron fence, taking it all in. Mike joked about how people were going to see us and say, “That poor woman has to help her drunk husband get home after way too much rum and eggnog.” I laughed and said that perhaps it looked like he was helping me…that maybe I looked like the lush. Either way, neither of us had anything to drink and I was guessing that the days of walking for hours around the city of Vancouver were gone. But I am not complaining. I will gladly stagger around our neighbourhood glued to Mike’s side for as long as we can.
I enjoyed the Bow Valley Trail, but later that night in bed I pleaded with the Lord (quietly as to not disturb coach Shay in the next bed) that He not only extend our walking time together, but that He extend Mike’s days on this planet and give him quality of life. May Mike enjoy the few things still left that he loves to do for a long, long time to come!
Needless to say the great escape was not so great without my mate!

                                      Views from the Bow Valley Trail in Calgary, Alberta