Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The end of an era... me hopes!

Alas, I've come to end my thirty some year addiction to colas and sodas in general. For years I would choose a camp in which shout whether I chose Coke or Pepsi, but no more. I will not be shamed into choosing a side only to impress friends. I will no longer support the sugary goodness, hyper-promoted, conglomerate companies of Pepsi-Cola or Coca-Cola Ltd. If you were to ask me how long I've been clean of glucose-fructose carbonated water, I can say with gleeful ephasis.... it was just after lunch today*... and damn, I miss it already.

But, isn't admitting your powerless one of the first steps to recovery?

About a week ago, I read an article in Yahoo! about the ill effects of drinking too much Cola. And again today, another article about drinking too much cola appeared in Yahoo. See, I may have mentioned that I have not had the best luck with my health.

Too much soda (main ingredients sucrose, glucose & caffeine) can cause your potassium levels to lower. Now I happen to know my potassium levels are acceptable, but lower levels of potassium can cause a condition called hypokalaemia which can cause:
  1. decreased muscle strength (and all of my male friends can attest that I'm no that strong to begin with. The only way I'm beating them at hand to hand combat is in Halo).
  2. cramping (check)
  3. palpitations (what?! Sorry, I couldn't hear you over my skipping heartbeat)
  4. nausea (urp...)
In extreme cases, it can cause:
  1. heart trouble
  2. paralysis
I kid you not.

So this was a factor in my decision to stop drink cola and soda in general, plus the fact it's bad for your teeth, high sugar content and it's "Liquid Satan**." Plus, let's look at some numbers.

I consumed on average anywhere from 1-2 600mL bottles of pop a day. So, averaging 900mL a day times 365 days in a year is 328,500mL in a year or 328 litres a year. If ten percent of that is actually sugar, than I've digested 32,850 mL (3,285 litres) of sugar in a year. Measure a cup of sugar and eat that, then imagine doing that some 13,139 more times to equal my sugar intake for a year.

Now cost. If I average 1.5 sodas a day at a dollar a day (round number) times 365 days in a year, I've spent $547.50 Times that by say thirty years and that comes to $16,425. Coka-Cola and Pepsi-Cola should buy me a bare bones Mazda 3. However, I live north of the 60th parallel (look on a map for those of you who don't know) and the average cost of a 600 mL bottle of pop costs 2.00. The cost now is $32, 850 over thirty years. Ahem... Coke and Pepsi-Cola Ltd., I'll take take that Mazda 3 loaded to the nines, thank you very much.

I am pleased to say now I am at week one (as of June 1st, 2009)... and even my co-workers are proud of me and asking me how the cola addiction is going... I tell them I'm still going strong... and taking one day at a time.

*This was the blessed blog, I wrote and rewrote four times. I was going to be pulling out hairs from my head or wires from my computer... see next blog entry.
**This was what writers Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin call soda in their book, Skinny Bitch. I saw it in their interview, I didn't read their book.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

My Paranormal Experience

I like to watch a show on A&E called Paranormal State. A team of students from Penn State investigate hauntings using what equipment they have available, a couple of psychic mediums they will bring to the sight, and expertise from the paranormal world such as the author/investigator of The Amittyville Horror. Ryan Buell is the team leader, and I take him with a grain of salt because I believe he has an ego that gets in the way of an effective investigation from time to time. But the evidence they've gathered over some of the shows is impressive and not concrete and proof positive. When something happens such as a chair moving, they are not quick to say a ghost did it, but usually say "it's not conclusive evidence, but the timing is pretty coincidental."

I like the fact that they don't come out and say... "I SAW a ghost." But are willing to believe that there is a possibility of a paranormal activity. And what I can say is, "I did not see a ghost." But let me tell you my story.

It was late in the summer of 1993, and I was hired on to finish the last month of the forestry season at Hart Lake Tower in the Northwest Territories. The tower is situated about sixty kilometres west of the small community of Enterprise, just two kilometres off of the Mackenzie Highway. The tower location overlooks a seventy five foot escarpment and has a great view of the forest from Hay River to the Mackenzie River. You can see the Great Slave Lake from here and can see the seventeen storey apartment building in Hay River some 26 aeronautical miles away with you bare eyes. It's quite a picturesque view.

I only had about a week left of my month at the tower. I had explored the cabin where I was staying, the storage shed nearby and the surrounding area by foot. The sixty foot tower had only a cupola but gave an even better view of the surrounding forest.

The evening in question I had been writing letters by candle light at the kitchen table to my friends back in BC where I was planning on returning after my job was done. Taking a break to go to the washroom (located handily about eighty feet from the cabin, also called an outhouse), I enjoyed the quiet night air. The clouds were hanging so low that the flashlight beam looked solid in the air, and the clouds looked within reach from the cupola of my tower. The clouds were so thick that there was no moonlight, no stars and it was completely dark. The darkness also hushed the woods as no creature made a sound, as if any movement would make their presence known to predators. The highway nearby was also silent as it was after midnight and when the Mackenzie River ferry shuts down for the night... so does the traffic.

But the darkness wasn't scary, it was comforting. And the silence wasn't eerie, it was peaceful. What I'm saying is that my imagination was not influenced by the environment. I do have an imagination, but I was not in the least letting my imagination wander.

So, after I returned to the cabin and sat at the kitchen table, I continued on with writing a letter to one of my friends. My back was to the door and the only light in my cabin was the candle by which I was writing. When inexplicably I could smell cologne. I thought that was odd because in my exploration of the cabin I found no cologne and I didn't bring any cologne (after all, there were no women here to impress). I chalked the odor up to my imagination and continued writing, mentally choosing to ignore the smell.

It was as if my thoughts were as plain to read as the headlines of a newspaper, because the smell got stronger as if saying, "Don't ignore me." Instantaneously the hairs on my arms, neck and cheek stood on end, and I indeed recognized the cologne as Old Spice. I also felt like the someone wearing the cologne was standing right behind me between me and the door (also the only exit to the cabin). I slowly turned my head around to glance behind me, I guess to prove there was no one standing there as I felt and that I wasn't a coward. I didn't see anything between me and the door and yet I felt like someone was still there. I turned my head back in the direction of the letter and pen (still in hand) and even spoke out loud to this 'spirit.'

"Grandpa (I called it Grandpa because the smell automatically made me think of my Grandpa who died when I was about thirteen), I'm a little busy right now. Could you come back later?"

Trust me, I really didn't want it to come back later, and I sounded like a young man very unsure of himself speaking this out loud isolated for miles and miles with no vehicle. But as soon as I finished speaking it, the scent disappeared and so did the sense of a presence behind me.

I spoke out loud again, "Ooooookay! It's time for bed."

I blew out the candle and felt my way in complete darkness to the bed, I felt absolutely terrified of even looking in the direction of the dresser mirror by my bed... afraid I'd see something, even though it was completely pitch dark. I crawled into bed, covered my head with the blankets and listened to the silence and the blood pumping through my ears. Eventually, after a long while, I fell asleep.

Nothing happened for the rest of my stay. Two seasons later I returned to Hart Lake Tower and stayed for the entire season not experiencing anything more.

I did find out that was an elder Native gentleman who worked at Hart Lake Tower and even called the place home, even though eight months of the year he resided in Hay River. He died previous to my first stay at the Tower, and I don't know whether I was his replacement or just finishing off the season for someone else.

It's not unusual for Native people to call their elders Grandpa or Grandma even if there is no relation, and it's not considered disrespectful to do so. So, I think that perhaps that spirit thought I was addressing him. I don't think my Grandfather chose Hart Lake Tower to come visit me.

So perhaps I have a paranormal sniffer because the next story also involves scent.

A plane was reported missing with my friend on board. A fellow musician and friend since high school. He was always friendly and would stop to chat with me. He had listened to my tape I had put together of my singing at Karaoke bars and encouraged me to keep performing. We had jammed together and he always wanted to collaborate on a project together. Despite his popularity with his friends, elders, youth, and the community, he could always make you feel like the center of attention.

His plane didn't arrive and it was reported missing December 31st, 2001 (an easy day to remember). I remember being at work shortly after New Year's waiting for word on the plane. All day I was thinking of him and imagining that he was at the plane wreckage playing fiddle around a fire that he had built keeping the other passengers warm and entertained. Near the end of my shift, I was informed that his plane was found and there were no survivors. Although expressionless I finished my shift, not letting the youth under my care as a young offender's officer know what I was feeling.

I got in my rental car (our vehicle was in a car accident a couple of weeks previously) started it up and drove home. And as soon as my car was on the highway, I started sobbing. I was grieving the loss of a good friend. And then I could smell the odor of someone who had been hanging around a campfire. I looked in the rear view mirror and so no one in the back seat, and then turned around to look in the back again seeing no one. I turned my attention to the road again and realized I had stopped crying and felt better. I felt like my friend had paid me a visit to let me know that he was in a better place now and that everything was good.

I know that it probably sounds cliche and that there are doubters out there who doubt such experiences, but that's okay... I'm a skeptic believer... and I've never seen ghosts.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Paranormal

I touched on a lot of things in my first article about some of my interests and I briefly touch on the paranormal. I said that I would be best described as a skeptic believer... someone who believes but has a BS detector that goes off when I think someone is trying to pull my leg.

I grew up hearing ghost stories from people and incidents of spirit communication during the moment of death but never really anything that I thought would be possible. I was one of those kids that would be scared of scary movies but took comfort in the fact that those things never existed, or couldn't happen in real life.

However, that said, my aboriginal half of my self lent to the beliefs that spirits communicating, respecting the dead, and gifts of insight were not only possible, but plausible. My parents were told while I was in the womb, that I was to be a great Medicine Man or Shaman if I so chose to be and that it was in my ancestry. A Shaman was not only a healer who should know the plants of the areas, but an elder* who was respected in the community for having a knowledge and voice in the spirit world.

I consider myself a rational, intelligent (at least of semi-average intelligence), and logical thinker who has not shut that door of the possibility of the paranormal. But I picture that old Hollywood icon of the medicine man as the mysterious one who spoke little but usually spoke volumes. That doesn't exactly fit me, but then again I am technologically savvy aboriginal Native... the next generation wise man?

Not only was I supposed to be "destined" (?) to be a great Medicine Man, but my grandmother believed that I was reincarnated as her brother who tragically died by falling through the ice and drowning. My mother told me stories of how I used to ask for things at a young age that didn't belong to me, but belonged to my great-uncle. This would disturb my grandmother and affirm her belief that I was her brother reincarnate. My mother and I could both recall my irrational fear of falling through the ice when my dad took me ice skating on the frozen river. And I can still still recall the last images of a childhood nightmare I had of looking up at someone through the ice as I was trapped underneath.

I've been near death a few times in my life. Once as a four year old I had an incredibly high fever and my mom ran me to the hospital on foot. The poured ice and water into a tub and held me in (they don't recommend doing that now, as people tend to have heart attacks). I can actually recall me fighting to get out of the tub. My mom said there was herself and two other nurses holding me in that night... and it could be an overprotective and over-exaggerating mother when she said, "It was very close."

I had a fifteen month case of appendicitis. Don't get me started on this story, but it went undiagnosed for that long. The surgeon said that he had done some 300 appendectomies previously and had never seen an appendix like mine. He said if someone had so much as punched me in the gut, I could have died.

And I touched on the last case in the article about choosing the profile pic. That one is a little more fresh in my mind and makes me a little uneasy. Just the idea of leaving my loving wife and kids terrified me... and still does.

All this said, I believe that I may have a sensitivity to paranormal activity.

Sorry... I went all into explaining all about myself and didn't touch on the actual experiences I've had to make me a believer. But I'll leave that for my next posting.

* An article in our local newspaper called me "the elder Aylward," referring to me in reference to my child. It's official... I'm old.

Click here for Funny Video

When I think of people ranting in a movie or on TV swearing or threatening or belittling, I can think of some actors who chew the scenery well.... Al Pacino, Robert Deniro, or Joe Pesci.

That said Betty White and Sandra Bullock have always been the sweetest on TV and movies and don't stray too far from their 'comfort zone.' Ryan Reynolds has a straight deliver of sarcasm that suits him well, but he usually seems too polite to insult an old lady.

That's why I think this 'behind the scenes' interview of their upcoming movie, The Proposal is hilarious.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Trials of choosing a picture.

Welcome to rant number one.

Why is it so blessedly hard to choose a profile pic? I have some theories...

  1. You can never find a pic that doesn't have the double chin.
  2. You don't want to look like the narcisstic jerk or jerkette with the pic taken by yourself to make yourself look hot... (Girls... pouty lips don't make you look hot... and if I ran into you at the grocery store looking like that pose... I'd offer to make you an appointment at the clinic to renew your anti-psychotic meds)
  3. The drunk pictures of you were funny when you were twenty-ish.
  4. Pictures of you and your drunk buddies aren't really cool when they look like they're trying to lick you ear.
  5. Why do people take pictures of their rides? No, seriously... why is that?
  6. Lastly... you want it to be a fairly accurate depiction of who you are now.

I have two pics so far. And they have interesting stories.

My profile pic (in the orange sweater) was an agency shot and it doesn't have me with a big goofy grin... if you ran into me I might even be wearing that sweater and you could say I recognize him from his photo

The pic in the last blog was my victory photo. I had a serious health issue in September of 2007. I had a routine surgery go bad... I developed a staph infection, a pulmonary embolism, had fifteen days of fever, spent seventeen days in hospital, lost twenty seven pounds (which made me look unhealthy), seriously became anemic, and was off work for two months. I missed a lot of bowling which I do on Thursday nights. I came to visit my team when I was finally on the mend and my sister, Becky, took this pic. And I thought I went through crap but I look great.

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

I don't know Mike from Canmore, but I might know Joe from Fort Simpson.

Welcome to the ramblings of a 37 year old married father of two, who lives in the far north of Canada. Like most people I work, ponder, complain, and joke about all things on and off the internet. I'm highly concerned about things like my weight, my dreams of being back in the spotlight (more about that later) and finishing the dozen scripts and stories currently struggling to fight its way out of my brain and onto some form of media. I had to get some of my creative talents to use, and I hope to entertain, enlighten, and... what's another 'e' word... evacuate your stress level be maybe making you chuckle a little.

That was my opening paragraph. I am not a writer... I am a storyteller. I actually suggested this blog idea to my counsellor as a means for my rants... and self therapy. I hope to have my postings range from bizarre to domestic, serious to silly, and hopefully at least interesting. I have opinions on a lot of things, however I am not a concrete person... you will always find room for debate... and if you're flexible like me... we'll get along just fine.

First, I am as I said. A married father of two boys and I was born and raised in Hay River, Northwest Territories, Canada. My wife is Frances, and my boys are Ian and Jacob, who are four and two respectively.

If my past jobs are an indication of who I am today... I've done just about everything: taxi driver; rodeo security; forestry tower operator; actor (I appeared briefly on a television show as a paid actor); singer; advocate (that's what I call my Social Work education); security officer at a diamond mine; worked with kids as a (I'm not sure what you'd call it) family support worker (?); and lastly as a receptionist at a medical clinic. I've actually probably missed something. But that's okay, it's enough to start with.

I have many interests. My creative side dabbles in writing, singing and photography. I love entertainment from some shows on TV and movies... I'm a big fan of watching movie trailers for movies that won't come out for nearly a year later... this means you, Star Trek. I like all sorts of music... it would be easier to tell you who I don't like. I surf the internet and I play my Xbox 360... probably too much. A friend of mine called me a "facebook whore", because I have some eight hundred friends... and counting. I'm the guy at work who prints off interesting news articles at work for people to read. I call myself a "skeptic believer" which I describe as someone who believes in paranormal activities but has a good BS detector. I do have a ghost story, which I'll share at some point.

I drink too much Coke, have a belly, don't exercise enough (my wife would question the definition of 'enough') and struggle to find the time to be creative.

I live up here in the Northwest Territories (pop: 40,747) in Hay River (pop: 3,568). I was born here, but I hope to die in Tahiti. I know the history of the area fairly well, and have been known to give some the visiting doctors good tours of the sights of the area. Hay River is situated on the southern shore of Great Slave Lake which is the eleventh largest and sixth deepest lake in the world... if you were keeping count. I may not know Mike from Canmore (Air Farce!), but I might know Joe from Fort Simpson.

Anyhoo (this isn't a typo as I sometimes type how I talk), I briefly touched on my life as an opener. If this was my pick up line at the bar... you'd be on your third drink and thinking you'd like to check out the washroom. So, hopefully you'd like to visit me every now and then.

Talk to you later.