Friday, February 03, 2012

Tell me this isn't beautiful

For the last two days, Winnipeg has been covered in a think blanket of fog - sometimes so dense that I can hardly see a few feet in front of me. That's what I woke up to on my birthday and it stayed all day and into yesterday and today. We get hoar frost every winter but it barely lasts a few hours. This one has stayed around and to me, the whole city looks like it belongs in a fairy tale. Every tree is stunning and it seems like the more gnarly and ugly it usually looks, the more beautiful it looks covered in frost.

The beauty is not the fog perse, but the fluffy hoar frost that has clung to every tree and shrub making me feel like I am living in a perfect winter postcard. Here are some of the images that I took today after I came home from work. The area close to the lake near my home is amazingly beautiful. When I took the pictures, I could hardly decide which tree or branch to photograph because it all looked so exquisite. While I was out there, another woman was in the park doing the same thing I was doing and we were laughing like kids in a candy store.

For those of you who don't experience winter and mock us in Winnipeg for having to endure the cold weather, this is worth some cold February days - although none of us can complain about the unusually warm winter this year. I think this is the 3rd warmest on record.  

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Happy Birthday .... to me!!

I could say that I was the first to wish myself a happy birthday but I am not. Anyway, happy birthday to me. A long time ago (more than 30 years), I decided that I would buy myself a birthday present every year for my birthday - just in case it was the only present I would get. So far, it's not been present-free but I still continue to get myself one each year. This year I decided to treat myself to a massage (if the truth be known, I've been treating myself to a weekly one for the past couple of months, so it's a birthday present that just keeps lasting long after the actual birthday has passed). So really it's an un-birthday present but whatever I call it, I'm the beneficiary. Let me tell you - I'm Loving it - and that's not McDonald's.

Some of you may already know this from a blog post of a year ago, but tomorrow would have been Dad's birthday. He'd be 81. He used to say that I was the best birthday present he ever got. It's nice to think that someone important in your life thinks that you are so special, that your existence is a gift to them. Well ,when I was a kid, I did not exactly appreciate that I was a gift to him. My biggest concern was that I had to share my birthday cake every year. I just wanted - just one time - to have my own birthday cake. As if that wasn't bad enough, Dad would buy both Bena and I each a birthday present on my birthday. I couldn't even get a gift of my own. I never had any hesitation, however, when he did the same on her birthday. How bad is that? That meant that every year I got two birthday presents and fortunately Bena's birthday was almost exactly 6 months later.

I remember when I arrived in Canada in July 1970 and for the first time ever, Bena's birthday arrived and I got no present. It was a sobering reality check for me and although it was only 9 days since I had been away from her, I really missed her. The lack of a present seemed so insignificant that I would easily have traded any gift I got that day just to be close to her again.
A few months later, I was so looking forward to my first birthday in Canada and I anticipated that day with joy because finally I would have my own cake and would not have to share it with Dad. The day arrived and somehow all the excitement that I was feeling was diminished when I realized that there was little joy in having a birthday - even if I finally had my own cake - if my family was not there to enjoy it with me. Four years later, my family emigrated to Canada and since that time, I have shared the SAME birthday cake with Dad. This year will be different. He won't be coming back, coming from or coming to  He just won't be here. I have not decided if I will have a birthday cake but he will be with me - as he is everyday since his passing - regardless of whether there is a cake or not.
Me, Hana, Breen
Happy birthday in advance Dad.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The harmful effects of sleep deprivation: Eddie pay attention!!

I think I am writing this particular blog post because I'm feeling a bit guilty. Let me explain. As you know, I went to Florida at Christmas with my family for a two week vacation. I was lucky enough to spend some time with my cousins Eddie and David and their respective wives Hashina and Hamo.

Eddie and David are both younger than me by at least 10 years. Since I left Guyana when I was 16, I did not know them as children. About 13 years ago, I went to Guyana for a visit and met both Eddie and David but did not communicate much since that time. My parents on the other hand, have spent time both at Eddie's and David's home in Florida. Last year when Dad was ill, Eddie called quite often and as time progressed and I started sharing the URL for my blog, Eddie would read and post the occasional comment. I have to say that in the last year, we have grown quite close. I'd call or he would and we'd have some long conversations - sometimes lasting a couple of hours. We were getting to know each other in a way that I consider a privilege. Most cousins don't even keep in touch, let alone become friends - which is how I now think of him. My daughters and grandchildren also got to know Eddie for the short time they were in Florida and said that he is so good and can't do enough to please us.

Last Thursday when I went home from work, Mom looked a bit troubled and asked if anyone had called me at work. I wanted to know why she was asking and she said: "Your cousin was in a bad accident and he is in the hospital." I asked which cousin (I have dozens) and what kind of accident. She said Eddie was driving early Wednesday morning and got into an accident with his van. He was in the hospital with serious injuries. I could not explain how awful I felt - for two reasons: 1) Eddie was badly injured; and 2) I recalled a foreshadowing conversation I had with him only a short week before about the dangers of sleep deprivation and driving. Eddie is a courier and one evening while he was driving back from Clearwater to the Orlando airport and then off to Jacksonville, I said that I had observed that he looked extremely tired while I was visiting and he needed to get some serious rest or sleep deprivation will affect his over all health and it will jeopardize his safety and someone else's on the road. I talked about how sleep deprivation affects cognitive and motor performance.
After a good 45 minute conversation, I said that I was not trying to lecture him and I promised that it would be the last such conversation about this as it was only done out of concern for his safety. I said that I would send some articles on sleep deprivation but the accident happened before I could do that.

Eddie does not remember exactly what happened but from other conversations with family members this is what I can surmise so far: It was a foggy early morning on Wednesday. Eddie was called out to do a delivery about 2am. He did that and was on his way to the mosque at about 5am when he was driving in heavy fog and hit the back of a truck which had no tail lights. He could not remember more than that but by the time the police arrived, he was concussed and was taken to hospital. The vehicle is a write-off. Eddie's injuries include a broken left collar bone, a shattered right knee cap and a broken right wrist - along with multiple bruises. He had surgery a few days ago and was sent home yesterday afternoon. Why my guilt? I feel (in retrospect) that our conversation was a kind of premonition (not the kind you want to have) about how badly things could go. In this case, things could have been so much worse but they were not. I don't know if Eddie was tired that morning but I do know that driving while drowsy is as bad impaired driving with a blood alcohol of .05 - that's the equivalent of 1 1/2 drinks. Please click on the links that I provided in this post and read some of the information.

I had to go to Brandon on Friday evening and returned home on Saturday. That was only 2.5 hours but I was paying attention and being as careful as I needed to be. I was not sleep deprived but it was not a restful Friday night. Imagine having only a couple of hours sleep at a time every night and I would not be able to last very long. Eddie I know you will be reading this so please take the advice offered for what it is - our concern for your health and safety. If you discard everything else, please consider that God gave you a clear message to take care of yourself by giving you another chance. Take it make it work and your family - me included - will be there with you. We love you and selfishly, I want more time with you.