Stuffed , the American way


1:12 Scale Thanksgiving Dinner by fairchildart, deviantart
It’s Thanksgving in the United States of America. This year the calendar means an extra long weekend is given over to carnivorous pursuits, punctuated by pigskin and other family-focused activites for many in the land of the free and the brave.. Here, north of the border, I hear rumours from American friends and relatives that the turkeys are bigger, the hams hammier and the pies…the pies never end! Meanwhile, in Canada, most of us have run out of turkey leftovers from our October Thanksgiving. There might be some leftover gravy at the back of the frig and an unopened can of cranberries. But it seems like we’re going to have to scrounge to see what we can scrape together for a meal. After our grub, we too are getting ready for pigskin. There is only one football game this weekend in our country – Sunday night – our Super Bowl  equivalent – The Grey Cup from the centre of Canada – Winnipeg – featuring the Eskimos and the RedBlacks (think lumberjacks). Inevitably, the Grey Cup is a great game -I predict high scoring, lots of dramatic plays and a final score of 44-42. Or 37-33. Or something like that.

Anyway, this weekend, some lucky Canadians get both Saturday and Sunday, off.  I understand that in the US, many will get a 3,  4 or even 5 day long weekend this year! We can’t seem to get a single November Statutory holiday – any suggestions you can share with your jealous  neighbours?

The following post is reprinted from last month when we marked Thanksgiving. I hope, in the context of American Thanksgiving, it’ll ring true with some folks below the 49th. To my American friends and family who missed the Canadian callout, here’s a reprise. To give thanks.


It’s Thanksgiving and, as usual, I’ve been thinking about all that I have to be thankful for. Like the proverbial turkey, I’m stuffed to the brim! This year, I thought I’d share this in a more public fashion through my blog. It may be a little self-indulgent, but permit my excess. If it’s not to your taste, and you are so inclined, feel free to scroll down through the “meal” and all its accouterments and head straight for the dessert. Bon appetite!

the aperitif

♥ the folks that i meet regularly and make my day – from the postal carrier to my neighbours to fellow dog walkers. While the cast changes with the seasons and through the years, they are a constant.

♥ those in the service industry – from the grocery store cashier to the tradesperson to the civil servant – whom I encounter that enjoys their work, are genuinely helpful, and can make or break a day.

the appetizers

♥ my classmates – people who I see every week at dance class or in aqua therapy, or whatever weekly pursuit happens to be the “soup-du-jour” of my continuing education!

♥ on-line communities – I belong to a number of on-line information and/or support groups – a lot of them related to PD. These are often a source of good information, discussion and even entertainment. Almost daily I make time, even but for a few minutes, to these groups

the turkey (or Tofurkey if u prefer)

♥ my family – my parents and my sister are unwavering in their support. I cannot imagine how I would have got along without them. I am truly indebted to them

♥ my children – though well on their way to becoming their own persons, and not my children, they’re still young enough to be embarrassed by signs of public affection so…T,E & W…thank you and lots of love, Dad

♥ my wife – it can’t be easy married to me and my PD – requires a well of strength that one might not expect! I’m also in many ways not the man she married yet she perseveres.

the sides

♥ my friends – despite everything I’ve done (or haven’t done) over the years, I have a group of friends from school, work and my “retirement” years, who I am so appreciative of. They are not really “sides” to this “meal” – they’re just as important as the “main dish” but this isn’t a vegan meal. We gotta have turkey. We gotta have sides!

♥ my extended family – my aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, out-laws (former in-laws), ex’s, etc. – see above! Too many to mention, too much they have given!

♥ my teachers, my mentors, my employers, the leaders who took a chance on me and hired me – I am ingratitude (cue Celine Dion – I think i can fly!)

♥ my medical team – I’m fortunate to live in Canada and to have had routinely good care and support from a range of health care staff. Truly dedicated to helping.

the dessert

♥ the readers of my blog – especially those who have been long-suffering followers – it’s very special that you have cared enough to read my rants and raves and to give me feedback through it all. Much appreciated.

the after dinner espresso

♥ to cast of thousands that, through the years, have touched my life in perhaps subtle, but incomparable, ways and haven’t been mentioned above. I think of the kids I taught in elementary school, parents of my kids’ friends, my teammates (baseball, football, hockey), my early classmates, radio folk, deaf and hard of hearing consumers whom I worked for, musicians and artists and writers I have known or admired, work associates, Board members and so many in the voluntary and educational sectors! Though my memory sometimes fails, inevitably something will trigger a thought – ring that bell – and your presence reverberates through my being once more. Thank you. Ring them bells!


First steps, first fall

RAMIV FIRST STEPS, Inaweofgodscreation, flickr
RAMIV FIRST STEPS, Inaweofgodscreation, flickr

As the years go by, we all have monumental moments of note. As a toddler, it’s our first steps. As a  child, the first day of school. Later, our first kiss. Our first graduation. Our first day on the job.

I’ve had the good fortune to check many of these “firsts” off my list.. This week, in a strangely twisted  way, I had the “pleasure” of checking another off my list – my first PD fall!

I was raking leaves in the back yard – just plodding along, clearing off a flagstone patio for about the fourth time this season when my feet somehow got caught up in one another. As I felt myself begin to fall forwards, I sped up to try to take myself out of the fall. Bad idea. Practically running, I hurtled to the ground and ended in a more violent crash than if I had just let myself go.

Now, I’m a few days into severe chest pain from bruised (hopefully not broken) ribs, a stiffening neck and muscle aches throughout. When I have tremors or dyskenisis, it strains my muscles even more.

Yet, at the moment of my fall, as I lay there on the cold stone patio unable to move, one of my first thoughts was my next meeting with my neurologist. (As an aside, the other thoughts whereof that tv commercial where the frail elderly woman on her kitchen floor uses a “lifeline” button device and calls out, “help me I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” . I didn’t have a “lifeline”. I wondered who might be the first to discover me!)

As for my neurologist meeting, you should know that, for the past 15+ years, every 6 months, I’ve been asked a series of more or less the same questions. These questions – ranging from side-effects from my medication to my ability to dress myself or do routine tasks – are intended to track the progress of my PD.  During a clinical trial that lasted almost 3 years, these standard questions were ramped up in frequency to every 6-8 weeks and the list of such questions swelled to include subjects such as my desire to start fires, any suicidal tendencies I might have,  whether I had an increased interest in pornography or any compulsive behaviours. Mostly I would give the same repetitive answers (though the odd time I would lob out a completely different answer for the astonishment or amusement of an  Intern or Fellow!).

These days, with that clinical trial behind me, I’m back to the shorter but standardized questions. I know what;s coming and what to expect. I have my duly rehearsed answers and will dutifully respond. Yet this time, there will be one difference. I will inevitably be asked if I have had any dizziness or if I have fallen.

“Yes!”, I will proclaim! “Yes, I have fallen!”.



Addendum: I did get up

Liven up your face

mr__glasses_by_diannasixx, deviantart
mr. glasses, diannasixx, deviantart

For the last month I have been completely entrenched in the process of moving. The chaos of this has left me running on a lot less sleep than normal. Add that lack of snoozing to my winter-pale skin and most mornings I don’t look like the liveliest of ladies. Luckily, however, I have a few tried and true tips on how to fake a rosy, I’ve-had-plenty-of-sleep look when you’re feeling tired and pasty…..

Wait, wait ,wait. This isn’t working out.

I’ve been thinking that, with so many folks with Parkinson’s experiencing “the mask” – the frozen, emotion-less facial features of PD, (see also Stone Face and Keep Your Requip…)  surely there must be some standard  “advice” on adding life to one’s face. Think of how many self help articles that have been published in magazines like Self, Cosmopolitan or Glamour to name but a few. This will be an easy blog to write – google  “life for your face”, “from dull to bright” or “make-me-look-like-I’m-bright-and-fresh-even-when-I’m-feeling-like-crap” – and just like that I’ll have a bundle to choose from. Copy, paste, add a credit and voila! Done!

Well, indeed, I found Bethany Porter’s Five Tips to Liven up a Tired Face and that’s where we started today but, as you can see, it doesn’t really work here. Nor have I been able to find a talliored-to-PD advise piece.

It’s a maddening part of PD – this mask we have to wear. There’s not a lot that we can do to shape this face of stone though we can chip away at it. Facial exercises have helped some retain their facial expressivity to a degree. Making a conscious effort to be more emotive in social settings works for some. I’ve even talked with people who find that an activity like singing has helped them be more expressive and this is reflected in their facial expression.

Personally, since I need glasses, I try to select frames that can bring a bit more life to my face. Not Elton John, clown-type specs – nothing too outlandish – but just some colour and character. I’m never really sure of course how successful this is as  I stumble around the optician’s store in a quest for frames that fit the bill, but I have to come to put my trust in one optician whose opinion and judgement I trust.

For variety, I also sport a beard which comes and goes depending upon a) the season b)how old I feel – it’s increasingly a white beard and c) how sick I am of shaving. I find the later a particular challenge as I don’t have the fine motor skills required to hold and handle the razor. My skin on my face – like the rest of my body is very dry (a side effect of the medicine) and I end up bouncing/hacking/scrapping my face for up to 30 minutes at a time. That you just know can’t be good for “livening up” your face – more like “zombifying” your face!

So, as I mentioned in my previous post, this has brought me to a recent purchase of new frames which I’m slowly adjusting to. Here’s a little collage of some of my past efforts. Some are so small you may find you have to squint and strain to see the frame features . Do me a favour please – while you’re squinting and straining at your computer, take a picture with your webcam and post it on-line! That will not only give you a hint at the expressive abilities of many folks with PD but also should provide a good laugh or two – a cheap elixir to livening up all our faces!



Doctor my eyes


For many years, I had a bulletin board in my office where special photographs, postcards, buttons, cards and such were posted for personal aesthetic pleasure and to capture treasured mementos. Though even a casual visitor to my office could divine a sense of my character from this collection. A kind of physical precursor to a public Facebook or Pinterest home page. One of these was a comic clipping from Gary Larson’s The Far Side. The single frame depicts a scene in a cinema where the operator is peering down in horror from the projection booth to the floor below where a pair of eyeglasses lie broken on the floor. As the movie continues to roll, shouts of “Focus! Focus!” erupt from the audience. Funny. A little sick, but funny.

While I didn’t need the reminder – the dryness, the strain, the floaters, the pressure remind me of it every day – my biennial eye exam has focussed my attention on my changing vision. It’s hard to say how much of the change is aging and how much is related to Parkinson’s though undoubtedly, together, it’s a bit of a double whammy. Drying of the eyes, often caused by a combination of reduced blinking and a side-effect of PD medication, is common. According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, some vision difficulties are related to changes in the movement of the eyeball. These are motor symptoms, similar to other motor symptoms caused by loss of dopamine neurons.  Blurred or double vision, and eye strain, are frequent because the eyes may have trouble moving together to focus on things traveling toward or away from you. Some PwP also have trouble reading because the eye movements needed to follow the lines of a page are slowed and have trouble starting (similar to gait freezing in the legs). Changes in depth perception are also experienced by many making activities such as walking and driving more challenging.

So, it came as little surprise that, after a battery of tests and a thorough exam, it was concluded that, indeed my vision is deteriorating. Not perhaps as quickly as I had perhaps thought but neither is it declining at a glacial speed (unless of course one is referring to the melting of the glaciers in Canada’s north under the previous regime:) ). I was referred for new spectacles (which are sure to feature in some future blog) and I’m now transitioning to them. I’ve been taking them out for a  test-ride driving, for reading indoors and out, under various degrees of light conditions and so far, so good.  They definitely do little to rectify many of the difficulties brought on by PD, but they do help. And no one is imploring me to “Focus! Focus!”!

Ein Prost!


Damn. My timing stinks. Just as October comes to a close – and so with it an end to the traditional Bavarian Oktoberfest festivities – new research is out that makes me wish I’d had a very different month.

It’s being suggested that hops, the female flower of the hop plant which are added during the beer brewing process, are a source of the compound “xanthohumol”. This compound as it turns out, protects neuronal cells present in the brain and thereby slows down the development of brain disorders. Parkinson’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions could be prevented or slowed down by the preventing the oxidative damage to these neuronal cells.

While there is limited detail on the study(s), this is one time i think we need to make an exception to our “let’s not read too much into the data” or “we need further study before we can draw conclusive evidence” attitudes.

We could be on the precipice of a major scientic breakthrough here. We don’t have time for random clinical trials or placebos or mean aggregates!! Science – I am your servant! Draw me a pint good bartender!  Salut!

(for dubious nay-sayers or just the curious, you’ll find more information on the actual study, here)

(for other eager research subjects or participants, you’ll find me here)