Family Lines

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Tag: Edmonton

Reptile recall

Four rings resembling snakes.Did you ever go through a phase as a young teenager, then look back, and ask, “Why did I do that?” Well, my snake jewelry is a product of one of those times. Why did I like reptile rings so much?

I don’t know. I must have had a reason when I was 13 but it has slithered away now. The rings on the picture on the left are only a few pieces of my large-scale collection. I also have earrings and at one time, a golden snake belt. It had red fake-stone “ruby” eyes and its mouth clipped on to its tail. It was awesome. (I found it at Frenchy’s – a second-hand clothing franchise in the Maritimes.) I gave the belt away but I wish I still had it.

I came across the snake stuff after unpacking some boxes that had been sent from my childhood home in Nova Scotia, to my new home in Edmonton. I laughed out loud when I saw the rings coiled in a handcrafted wooden box my dad made for me. The snakes have been hibernating for over 20 years and awoke many memories. I remember how I got each piece: one I bought at the Olde Curiosity Shoppe in Port Williams (the store no longer exists). Another – a Christmas gift from my family. (My parents indulged my reptile fascination.)

I was only charmed by the snakes for a short period. Snakes shed their skin when they grow. I shed my rings.  What do you remember leaving behind?

Author Dr. Guy Ekisa and why he writes to help

Dr. Guy Ekisa, Edmonton author and clinical psychiatrist.

Dr. Guy Ekisa, Edmonton author and clinical psychiatrist.

Christmas isn’t always a happy occasion for all. It can be a tough time for some. While everyone is different with different problems, there are some ways to deal with the holiday blues and not spend another year in turmoil. I recently edited and epublished some self-help books with sound advice dealing with bullying, dating, how to be your own boss and dealing with grief.

Dr. Guy Ekisa is the author of the four books above. He doesn’t give pat answers or silly motivational clichés; no, he gives experiences from his own life. As a clinical psychiatrist he has devoted four decades to helping individuals overcome challenges caused by loss of mental or physical health and disruptions in social, spiritual, financial and relationship well-being. I asked the Edmonton professional a few questions on why he’s sharing his wisdom with the world.

WRITING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

For me now, writing is an extension of my clinical work as a psychiatrist except that I’m no longer seated at the opposite side of the desk from my patient. The message that I share is a distillation of the knowledge, the skills, the insights that I have gained from my patients foremost, and the growth that I had the privilege to experience during my life’s journey through Uganda, United Kingdom, Canada and overseas – the insights that have helped many of my patients and contacts. This journey has taught me, among other things, that we are all interconnected and interdependent and do benefit by sharing. We are dependent on so many – the bees that pollinated the plants that fed the cows that produced the milk that sustained the women and men that made the shoes we are wearing. We learn and grow from others and others grow from us; we support one another and we are supported by others.

WHY DID YOU WRITE FOUR SELF-HELP BOOKS?

I wrote STOP MILKING A CHICKEN: Employee or Unemployed Personal Wealth Creation Resource plus a student companion book because most men, women and children are struggling to make ends meet while they continue to work flat out to make others wealthy. When we have more of anything we feel more contented and are able to reach out to socialize, help others and to share. Everyone has inner wealth that can be unleashed to create more personal wealth and improve personal lives and the lives of their loved ones, not to mention humankind and the planet.

I wrote DATE SMART in Five Steps: Don’t Settle For Less Than A Friend because in reciprocal relationships we feel happy, fulfilled and we strive to support one another. Unfulfilling relationships are more prevalent than we care to think. It’s painful to experience or witness an unequal and unbalanced relationship. While it’s natural and common initially for the partner who is at a disadvantage and who experiences emotional, physical or intellectual pain of disappointment to look to his/her partner for solutions to the pain that the partner caused, it’s futile to continue nurturing such an expectation in the absence of corrective actions – this would be like expecting a cactus plant to come and remove the thorn in your fingertips.

A significant amount of time and effort gets devoted to the bully and whatever turned him/her to start the bullying behaviour and I do concur that effort in this direction needs to continue. However, it’s your child who is being targeted and who continues to suffer abuse despite whether the bullying is due to learned behaviours, family or traumatic backgrounds or due to temperament in the person who bullies your child. That’s why I wrote COMFORT YOUR CHILD: Don’t Let A Bully Steal Your Child’s Dream.

This book doesn’t focus on the tormentor nor does it seek to work on or with the bully, his sympathizers, accomplices or unhelpful bystanders. Efforts that aim to create positive change in a bully need to be delegated to those who have the means, skills, opportunities and authority to effectively deal with the bully such as the bully’s parents, professional caregivers, the school and school board administrators, law enforcement authorities, the judiciary, civic leaders, government institutions, religious institutions and self-help groups. Armed with a coordinated and focused action plan, these individuals and agencies are better placed to address a bully’s lack of empathy, injustice, insecurities, aggressiveness and any pertinent traumatic or family issues. As a parent or caregiver, you will, however, need to either be instrumental or have your representatives be involved in prompting school authorities and community agencies to institute such a team as mentioned above to address the bully’s issues and ensure this team receives your feedback.

Loss of expectations is central to the experience of grief. Abuse, trauma and loss through separation, divorce or death only represent the tip of the grief iceberg. Any loss of physical and mental health, our attributes and anything we are attached to, be it human, animal, thing, spiritual or idea that may destabilize our functioning and undermine our wellbeing. FINDING COMFORT: As You Heal from Abuse, Trauma or Loss addresses grief in its widest sense.

WHY DR. EKISA WRITES SELF-HELP BOOKS

I receive and give advice almost on a daily basis and move on, incorporating some while being oblivious to the rest. While the words in my books include advice, they are presented in a form that encourages the reader to delve deeper into specific issues, work out possible solutions to meet their unique needs – thereby helping facilitate personal growth.

WHY DR. EKISA’S BOOKS ARE DIFFERENT FROM OTHER SELF-HELP BOOKS

In my books I focus on the crucial need for each reader to identify his/her inner strengths/wealth and the wealth around him/her and to then deliberately take ownership of and responsibility for all aspects of his/her life and growth, including recruiting support. Based on my professional and personal growth, I know and believe that each reader, no matter his/her personal circumstances, has a great deal of resilience and inner strength. It’s this inner strength that has allowed him/her to overcome whatever challenge he/she has faced thus far. It’s this inner wealth that I encourage the reader to identify, record, own and tap into for problem solving and growth, while recruiting additional help from his/her network of supporters.

 Dr.  EKISA’S REAL LIFE EXPERIENCES

STOP MILKING A CHICKEN: Employee or Unemployed Personal Wealth Creation Resource: Jake takes ownership and responsibility early.

Jake’s parents struggled financially but always sacrificed to provide for his school supplies and tuition fees. He was an average scholar with his eyes set on studying mechanical engineering at university. He had an aptitude for mechanics and was often found tinkering with small engines or anything with a motor. He got his driving license at 16 and soon after that passed his Class One license and was ready to drive trucks. He immediately got himself a part-time job with a good company driving trucks within the city on weekends. He had good work ethics and got along well with his boss and other employees. After graduating from high school the following year, he made a decision that upset his parents. Rather than going to university, he decided to go to work instead. He had just landed a job as a long distance truck driver for another trucking company.  After 18 months, he had accumulated enough money to pay for his university tuition for four years, with a surplus left. His parents were amazed at their son’s resourcefulness. His reply was, “I reckoned it was better to wait for a couple of years to go to university in order to save a lifetime in student loan shackles.”

He subsequently went on to university but continued to work some weekends. By the time he graduated, four years later, he had bought a one-bedroom apartment with a sitting tenant in it. He decided to keep it as a rental property. He also bought two medium size trucks from an auction and had his mother scouting for delivery business and working as the dispatcher for two young drivers he employed. He got a job as an engineer but continued to build his own trucking business.

The above example is ownership and working outside the box at the very best. Jake took charge of his destiny early on and decided to do things differently, against the best advice his parents could give him and against conventional practice. He knew his strengths and sought to learn from different settings. He developed a clear vision and image of what he wanted in life and how he was going to approach it. He had heard of relatives in their fifties and sixties, who were still bearing the burdens of student loans so he made up his mind that his education would involve more than merely going to school. He found another way to supplement school through practical experience. He found a way of sidestepping the stranglehold of student loans.

DATE SMART in Five Steps: Don’t Settle For Less Than a Friend: Misplaced assumptions.

Zolif was a 22 year old medical doctor who lived by himself. At 20, he had broken off a two-year turbulent relationship with his girlfriend due to her uncontrollable anger. It took him three months to work through the grief caused by the break-up. When he felt comfortable enough to start dating again, he chose a woman who was charming, bright, witty, funny and very sociable. The two liked each other and started going steady after a month. The one thing Zolif valued most in a relationship was to “feel heard.” It was not long before he started noticing that his girlfriend was more interested in enjoying herself than sharing time together. She loved being the centre of attention and cracking jokes. She was very opinionated and it was hard for Zolif to have a meaningful conversation without her taking over the talking. He had to repeatedly interrupt her in order to get a word in edgewise. Zolif grew tired of not being listened to and gradually became disillusioned with his girlfriend. After five months, he called off the relationship. His girlfriend was devastated because she had thought their relationship was great.

Zolif needed to feel that he was in a mutually beneficial relationship. He had assumed that this charming and witty woman knew how to make him feel special. It took him several months to realize that she had no clue how to do this.

COMFORT YOUR CHILD: Don’t Let a Bully Steal your Child’s Dream: Kindness heals – working through guilt and shame.

 Vince was eight years old when he was raped by his maternal grandfather who then threatened to shoot him if he ever told his mother. His grandfather showed him the gun that he would use. Vince’s father had arranged for the whole family to go on a camping trip. However, Vince had pleaded with his parents to allow him to go to grandpa’s. Grandpa had promised to take him fishing – his first experience.

Vince’s life was never to be the same again. Out of fear, he kept the secret and suffered in silence. He kept his parents and siblings in the dark. His parents felt that his problems were due to laziness and his tendency to procrastinate. His irritability, anger and argumentativeness were seen as behaviour problems associated with his stubbornness. His declining school grades were seen as due to his unwillingness to work hard.

Although he never went to visit his grandfather again, the rape continued whenever the grandfather visited the family. The grandfather would instruct Vince to stay at home when the family went out and made sure that Vince saw the loaded gun. At 15 years of age, Vince decided to leave home to stay with a friend. This put an end to the cycle of abuse but not to the ongoing emotional pain.

The memories, the recurrent nightmares, the emotional pain triggered by the smell of tobacco, the sight of blood, middle-aged men, toy guns, to name but a few, continued to torment Vince. Worst of all were his feeling of guilt and shame. They were relentless. He would get very depressed. He blamed himself for putting himself in the place where he was raped.

An entry in Vince’s diary written when he was 17 read, “It was me who refused to go camping. It was me who insisted on going fishing. It was my fault. I brought it on myself. I am to blame…” Shortly after this he became so depressed that he talked to his friend about ending his life. The friend responded by driving him to a hospital emergency room where he was admitted into a psychiatric ward. He received ongoing counselling after discharge.

This example highlights the need for you, as a parent or caregiver, to be emotionally connected with your child, to be aware of his/her emotional space and wellbeing, and to respond to the smallest signal that indicates that he/she is beginning to deteriorate.

FINDING COMFORT: As You Heal from Abuse, Trauma or Loss: Confronting the nasty and disagreeable characteristics and behaviours

Wanda lost her baby at birth and addresses the nasties (painful and disagreeable memories relating to her doctor’s actions).

Wanda was a 22 year old married woman who went into hospital to deliver her first baby following a normal pregnancy. After a prolonged trial of labour, a cesarean section was performed – too late to save her well-developed baby boy, who by then, was in serious distress. He died within 10 minutes of delivery. Wanda was devastated.

She was discharged three days later with a follow up appointment in a week’s time. Wanda worked through her grief, with help from her relatives, but remained very angry with the doctor who could have prevented the death of a perfectly developed baby, had he done the pelvic measurements or responded in time. He had failed to live up to his promise to her and that he would make sure that the delivery went as smoothly as her pregnancy had gone. Each time she thought about her son, whom she never even held alive in her arms, she couldn’t stop crying and bargaining or feeling very angry at the midwives.

Two weeks later, Wanda decided that the only way for her to deal with her never-ending anger would be to meet with her doctor. After doing her own preparations for this meeting (i.e. visualisations and trial runs using drawings and after practising releasing exercises for a whole week), she decided she was ready to confront the doctor. She rehearsed what she was going to say and how she was going to say it and armed with her note book, so she would not forget anything. The she made the appointment with her doctor and took her sister with her as a supportive resource who waited for her in the reception room.

Once in the doctor’s office, Wanda took charge of the meeting from the outset. She didn’t ask for reasons or explanations. She had been in the delivery room for 36 hours and knew everything that had gone on, up until she was sedated for her operation. She told the doctor what she wanted to say and upon finishing, thanked him for his time and left. Wanda later reported that the doctor had tried to take charge of the meeting but she stuck to her script. Apology was not her objective, “My baby is in the grave. Nothing can bring him back. His spirit was, is and will always be in me. I need to heal and move on, beyond this pain.”

After she got home, she wept for hours. She did a release exercise and said “goodbye” to the doctor and her experiences in the maternity ward. Her preoccupation with the doctor and what went on in the hospital was no longer a major problem by the end of the week. She continued to reclaim shattered connections and to release the remaining pain – the things that were within her control. She retained the memory but not the severe negative feelings associated with it.

THE TARGET AUDIENCE

My books are intended for any one searching for betterment and fulfilment in their life’s journey, specifically those:

  • Struggling with the pain of loss, whether this is due to bullying, loss of expectations, ideas, a pet, separation, divorce, trauma of emigration, serious traumatic events or death;
  • Teenagers, and those who need to maximize their dating skills so they can focus on recruiting a friend for a companion, while avoiding human predators;
  • Parents and caregivers of the bullied child (target) and
  • Students, employees and the unemployed of our planet so they can learn to cast their nets wider as they seek financial security in the light of limitations inherent in employment as a means to become financially wealthy.

DR. EKISA’S CENTRAL MESSAGES

Stop Milking a Chicken: Employee or Unemployed Personal wealth Creation Resource – plus a Student companionStop Milking A Chicken book cover. book: As the reader works though this book he/she will gain additional insight and personal growth to the extent that he/she will feel more psychologically ‘fitter’ and more ‘adaptable’ enough to say: “I am aware that there are indeed forces that limit personal wealth creation. These forces are amenable to change. I do have necessary tools inside and around me to start creating for myself and increasing my personal wealth. If I can create wealth for my employer, I can create wealth for myself using the same skill set.”

Comfort Your Child: Don’t Let a Bully Steal your Child’s Dream: For a bullied child (target) or person to begin to Comfort your Child book cover.feel that he/she is not alone because parents, caregivers and community supportive network are pooling together their resources to comfort and fortify him/her. This will empower the child to reach out to those who love and care about him/her including medical, mental health, life skills coaching and anti-bullying self-help groups. He/she will then be able to start focusing on day-to-day living, his/her aspirations and dreams, rather than continuing to be preoccupied with the bully’s nasty characteristics and disagreeable behaviour – thus the bullied child will become more “my wellness-focused” as he/she declares the bully unwelcomed and irrelevant to the healing and the journey towards fulfilling his/her dreams.”

Finding Comfort: As you Heal from Abuse, Trauma or Loss: Here my hope is that the reader will become aware Finding Comfort book cover.that experiencing emotional pain (grief) during and after any abuse, trauma or loss is a normal human reaction. The pain comes in waves and lulls – the lulls give us a breather and an opportunity to start reclaiming our hitherto shuttered well-being. We need to hang in there. Grief pain does get better, sometimes with help from our supportive network and resources. When we are in a crisis what we need most is a shoulder to lean and cry on – we are not alone. While many have been there and lived to tell the story, each experience is unique to the individual.

ADVICE ON LIVING LIFE

Friends talk, can cover each other’s back and can agree to disagree. Enemies can’t talk and always seek to fight or annihilate one another. Strive therefore to befriend that which is inside you, but which hurts you, makes you ashamed of yourself, beats on you or is disagreeable to you because you are joined at the hip and you live in the same house.

FUTURE BOOKS

I have three books in draft form and a few more in the incubator.

WHERE TO PURCHASE  THE BOOKS

From Amazon.ca or Amazon.com.

Check my website for write ups: http://drguyekisa.ca.

Contact Dr. Guy at guy@dyguyekisa.ca.

Twitter: @Ekisa Guy; Facebook: Guy Ekisa.

Then to now

View of North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK).

North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK).

I recently returned from a vacation that took me to Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea. It was my first time landing in Malaysia and Singapore but not South Korea. I had been an English teacher in Korea almost 20 years ago. When I was there, I wrote a bi-weekly column for a Nova Scotia newspaper about my experiences. I’m doing that again except this time, the columns are for my own blog.

South Korea

Part V of Singapore ‘16

I had been to Seoul twice when I lived in South Korea 20 years ago. I had gone with friends, both Korean and Canadian, to explore the markets and go salsa dancing at a Cuban bar. Seoul was huge at the time and I remembered walls of people coming towards me like an ancient Greek phalanx. Not so 2016. The never-ending flow of people coming at me from all angles didn’t seem to exist like it once did.

View of Seoul.

Seoul.

Don’t get me wrong, there are still a lot of people, over 10 million, in Seoul. I think I didn’t see the crowds because Jason and I used the metro (subway) to move around the city. We weren’t out and about when students were going to and from school. There were other differences I noticed about Korea from then to now. Where were all the soldiers patrolling the train and bus stations? Twenty years ago, the military was everywhere. Today I still saw soldiers in uniform but they weren’t on active duty. They were sitting on the bus going home on leave or eating in a restaurant. They weren’t on patrol.

Young women used to cover their mouths when they laughed. That isn’t happening anymore. Girls weren’t walking arm-in-arm either. The vendors who used to sell dried squid to bus passengers didn’t board the vehicle and walk up and down the aisles, hoping to grip your taste buds. Things have changed. But despite the things I found different, one thing has stayed the same: the threat of North Korea.

South Korea and North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK)  have been in a ceasefire since the Korean War in the 1950s. The two countries are separated by the demilitarized zone (the DMZ), that’s only about an hour’s drive from Seoul. The DMZ acts as a buffer between South and North Korea and is the most heavily militarized border in the world. Tourists can visit the DMZ but beware; you can also be shot while seeing the sights. Jason and I decided to live on the edge and signed up for a DMZ tour.

I think it’s kind of strange to travel to a border for a peek into another country’s way of life. But North Korea is fascinating in a dark and twisted way. Nowadays you can travel to North Korea and visit places handpicked by the government but Jason and I didn’t want to give Kim Jong-un’s regime any of our money. Instead, we settled for a glimpse from the South Korean side. We went to the DMZ with Koridoor, a tour company in Seoul affiliated with the USO (United Service Organizations), an organization for U. S. military personnel. Our DMZ tour left from Camp Kim, a U.S. military base.

The tour left early in the morning and the bus was filled with tourists of all nationalities but mainly Americans from the Rotary convention. As we headed out to the demilitarized zone, we began to see the markings of a country on guard. The highway skirting the river leading to the Yellow Sea had barbed wire wrapped around the guardrails and every few metres there were covered platforms with soldiers stationed in them. In some of these little houses, I saw the soldiers hunched over their guns pointed out to the water, ready to fire at any moment.

Guard post.Seoul is so close to the DMZ, just over 56 km (35 miles). The South Korean capital is always hopping with people going to and from work and school and living life: business as usual. The people here know their world hangs in the balance. But what can you do when your neighbour is hostile and doesn’t care about human rights?

We started our tour at Camp Bonifas, a United Nations Command military post, where a U.S. army private gave us some history about the DMZ. (I thought I had a good grasp on the background but there’s a lot I didn’t know. Google it.) Going from cosmopolitan Seoul, to the strict rules of the DMZ was a big change. Private Chun (a Korean-American raised in California) told us not to point or make gestures of any kind. This is so the North Koreans can’t use it as propaganda. (Pointing is rude in Korean culture.) He also told us not to take photographs until he gave us the word. (Although this didn’t stop some people.) Then we continued on to the Joint Security Area (JSA).

Joint Security Area (JSA) sign.It’s at the JSA where the two sides face each other: South Korea on one side. North Korea on the other. We went into a building where the sides meet and I stood, technically, in North Korea for five minutes. Private Chun said sometimes North Korean soldiers will make comments and laugh at the tourists but no one bothered us that day. We could see one North Korean solider posted at a building on the other side. There was a second man who we couldn’t see because he has his gun trained on the first man in case he decides to defect and bolts for the South. Then the second man will kill him.

The JSA is surreal and fascinating. It was a solemn occasion too. There was nothing to be smiling about when the people on the North side are being governed by megalomaniacs. Many South Koreans have family in North Korea and it must be heartbreaking to be apart from them. From the JSA, we stopped at a view point of the Bridge of No Return. It was used as a prisoner exchange point but is now just a landmark. Off in the distance there looks to be a North Korean city. Except it’s just the façade of buildings. It’s the fake city of Kijong-dong and the only thing active there are loudspeakers blaring music and propaganda messages. There’s also a gargantuan flagpole erected in response to one built on the South Korean side.

North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) soldier.

North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or DPRK) soldier.

Meeting room in "Truce Village" at the JSA.

Meeting room in “Truce Village” at the JSA.

South Korean (Republic of Korea or ROK) soldier.

South Korean (Republic of Korea or ROK) soldier.

Divide between south and north. I'm standing on the North Korea side.

Divide between south and north. I’m standing on the North Korea side.

Bridge of No Return.

Bridge of No Return.

There’s a lot of background and events that I’m glazing over. My story is about my experiences, not the minutiae of the history. The North Korean propaganda directed at South Koreans would be laughable if it all wasn’t so terrible. There are no limits on what the North Korean leaders have done or are doing to their people. Efforts for unification are under

way by some South Koreans. A train is ready to roll into North Korea at any time although only sightseers visit the eerie stop to nowhere today.

JSA. Looking towards North Korea side.

JSA. Looking towards North Korea side.

Over a lunch of bebimbap (rice and egg), Jason and I sat with an off-duty American soldier. He had been stationed in Afghanistan, Iraq and was in Korea for his second time. Growing up he had adopted Korean siblings and so Korea wasn’t a new experience for him. However, he had never been to the DMZ. We chatted about what we saw and his time as a solider. I asked him why I wasn’t seeing Korean soldiers posted around the country.

 

“They used to be all over the place,” I said, “even on the beach.”

“With today’s surveillance technology like CCTV (closed-circuit television), you don’t need people anymore,” replied the American solider. “You can monitor far more now with cameras and other systems.”

Train station. One of our last stops on the DMZ tour was to a tunnel known as the Third Tunnel of Aggression. North Korea dug 1,600 metres into South Korea in the late 70s. There are three other tunnels around the DMZ. Jason and I walked about 10 minutes down a sloping passageway into the darkness. There was not much to see but it was pretty terrifying to see how far the North Koreans got. It’s said the shaft’s wide enough for about 2,000 soldiers to pass into South Korea in an hour.

The tour was exhausting not because I was walking around all day. It was tiring because I was on guard all the time. I was reminding myself not to point (I also had to remind Jason. He’s a hand-talker and kept pointing to everything.) I had to remind myself not to take photos. These days with mobile phones and always having a camera for every moment, it was tough to remember not everything is a photo opp. Especially when heavily-armed soldiers are the subject.

The bus ride back to Camp Kim wasn’t as silent as I would have liked. The Rotarians were making their evening plans. Loudly. Jason and I already knew what we were doing: meeting a university friend of mine for supper. Dean and I lived in Seminary House at the same time at Acadia University. He had moved to South Korea around the same time I had. While I left after six months, he had stayed, got married and had a son.

Jason and I met Dean and his family and over fantastic Korean barbecue and grapefruit soju, we talked about life and our different paths. When I told them about the things that I noticed that were different, Dean’s wife said like every country, things change. New generations have different outlooks. They want different things. Just like in Canada.

Korean bbq.

Korean bbq – grill at your own table.

Later that evening, Dean, Jason and me headed to Itaewon, an area of Seoul. For me, it holds memories of cramped food stalls and narrow streets full of boxes of fruits, vegetables and Korean slippers. It used to have a seedy side too as it was a red light district. It was also an area known for ex-pats and that still rings true — and now it’s most known for its lively nightlife. We went to the Wolfhound, an Irish pub, and Dean was immediately surrounded by friends from all different countries. That hadn’t changed.

Jason and I got back to our hotel room after our enjoyable evening on the town. We had two and a half more days to go in the city. Over the next couple days, we saw a baseball game (Doosan Bears versus LG Twins), visited some palaces, went shopping, ate at a North Korean food stall during a Unification event and I had a business meeting at the Canadian Embassy. We packed in as many things possible while having pockets of time to relax and let the memories soak in.

Doosan Bears vs LG Twins. The teams share Jamsil Baseball Stadium so it was a home game for both teams.

Doosan Bears vs LG Twins. The teams share Jamsil Baseball Stadium so it was a home game for both teams.

Jamsil Baseball Stadium. Great atmosphere with the fans cheering and singing songs.

Jamsil Baseball Stadium. Great atmosphere with the fans cheering and singing songs.

Deoksugung Palace.

Deoksugung Palace.

Deoksugung Palace.

Deoksugung Palace.

Our first day in Malaysia seemed so far away on our last night in Korea. We had lots of photos and experiences and stories to take back to Calgary with us. While this was the end of our Singapore ’16, the trip we had been planning for a while, it signalled the beginning of something else: a life in Edmonton. Jason has a new job there. It’ll be a hard transition as Calgary has been our home for several years. We have amazing friends here and I don’t want to leave them. However, after visits with old friends, new friends, former homes and new sights, I know home is where you make it.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

A Heart for Kristy

Leaf in shape of heart.When meeting Kristy Thackeray, the first thing you’ll notice is her big smile. The second thing is how friendly she is to everyone: she really cares about people. Kristy was a participant in one of my Chinook Learning Services memoir writing classes last fall and she went out of her way to comfort those who got teary-eyed while sharing their life stories. It was only when she began to share her own writing that I realized how much this woman has been through. It is truly unbelievable what Kristy has experienced and yet she still manages to be a positive and empathetic person. She is putting her life story into a book, which I have the honour of editing. Here is Kristy in her own words introducing her memoir.

My book chronicles my journey of requiring a heart transplant. May 25, 1996 I was granted a wish from the Children’s wish foundation – to meet country superstar Reba McEntire. My family and I arrive in Texas and the unthinkable happens: A heart has been found. My family and I need to get back to Edmonton, AB – NOW!

While I am receiving a life-saving heart transplant, another family is dealing with the loss of a loved one: a daughter, sister, cousin, niece and friend. I received Dawn Marie Tremblay’s heart on May 26, 1996 (Dawn’s birthday). It would take some years for our families to meet. But meet we did, five years later when I became pregnant with twins at 19 (Dawn talked about having twins!)

It was a miracle and I was the first heart transplant patient to deliver twins. Two years after the Miracle Twins were born, one of my girls developed symptoms that were concerning. Tests confirmed my worst fear – my daughter had the same rare heart disease and required a heart transplant. Twelve years later, my daughter is doing amazing! I think about her donor family every day and I wish so badly I could meet them.

In my book, I share my discouragements and small victories along with insight into a world that is filled with medical tests, terms and equipment. When my memoir is available for purchase, I hope you will get yourself a copy. This book is for anyone who wants to laugh and cry as I share my journey of having a heart transplant; because that is truly when my life began.

Amazingly my donor family has also contributed to the book and shared their experiences of losing their daughter and the process of organ donation.

If you would like more information about my book please visit my Facebook page. Also share with your friends.

Some of the proceeds from my book will be used to develop a support program for Donor families. Something that is really needed in Alberta!

A Slightly Tainted Hero

book by Graham Clews.He has done it again. Graham Clews released his second book of 2015. The Westlock, AB author is a writing machine and just launched A Slightly Tainted Hero. I’ve started to read this humorous yet philosophical look at an accountant’s late-in-life romp with marriage, money and his 15 minutes of fame. Check it out:

A Slightly Tainted Hero

Dave Lockwood is an accountant. He just turned sixty and he’s feeling old–mainly in body rather than mind. Then there’s his office manager, Irene Blanchard. She’s about twenty years younger, about the age Dave’s mind seems to think it is as it valiantly labours to adjust to his ‘maturing’ body. Which is why he unwisely confronts a mugger while escorting Irene to an underground parking lot in downtown Edmonton. Oh and the mugger is armed.

Blind panic follows as shots ring out and somehow Dave becomes an overnight hero. In fact, he’s shocked to find that he’s now a successful, wounded, nationally known hero. But instant fame has its drawbacks as Dave’s past sins slowly emerge from behind a long closed door. Louise, his wife of thirty-six years, is not pleased. Neither, it seems, is anyone else as the fallout spreads: his partners at work, the police, the mugger’s family, and even Dave himself.

This novel takes an often humorous, sometimes thoughtful look at the bittersweet irony when the good things in life turn out, as they often do, to be ‘Slightly Tainted’. Or, as Dave likes to put it: “Every silver lining has a cloud!”

Graham now has seven novels to his name, covering many different subjects and genres. From historical fiction to stories for young adults to political humour, the characters keep forming and jumping from his mind to the page.

For more info on Graham and A Slightly Tainted Hero, go to: http://www.graham-clews.com.

He’s also on Twitter, GoodReads, Facebook and has a blog.

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