How A Sitcom Saved My Life

Today was my first Toastmasters speech.
My icebreaker
, if you will.

The goal was to introduce myself to the group….

Now the story of how a sitcom saved my life.

When I was a kid, there was no need for daycare, summer camps or after-4 programs.

We had TV.

Ours was minute, black and white, with an aerial on top and 2 fuzzy, fuzzy channels. But we’d rush home from school for Flintstones at lunchtime. And we’d get up for cartoons so early Saturday mornings that we’d have to stare at that black and white test screen for ages – and the sing along with Oh, Canada when the station finally started up for the day.

Eventually, my parents splurged. They bought a Jetsons-style colour-TV. With a huge 12” screen. And cable.

Now we could watch everything.
And we did:

  • I Dream of Jeannie
  • Gilligan’s Island
  • The Brady Bunch
  • Laverne and Shirley
  • Mork and Mindy
  • Donny and Marie
  • The Gong Show
  • Charlie’s Angels
  • Magnum PI
  • Chips
  • Dallas
  • The Love Boat


Then – boom – University.

No Time. No TV.


When I finally did have access again, I realized I despised TV.
And, that was that.


Fast forward to 2006.

Mark ran out to rent a movie and – like Beanstalk-Jack – came home with something else.
A TV show.

I turned up my nose.

We popped in the DVD and I prepared to give it a gong.

It was the story of a wealthy family who lost everything
And the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together.

It was Arrested Development.

Jam-packed with family dysfunction and subtly placed laughs.
In no time, we were hooked.

With two young kids, two full-time jobs, two sets of crumbling family relationships and the production of at least two demanding podcasts, Arrested Development became our sanity.

We’d work like dogs ‘til midnight or so then pop some popcorn, slather it with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, pour ourselves some red wine and enjoy an episode or two of non-stop laughs.

Instant, dependable entertainment.
Fee-free, effective therapy.

Night after night, we’d make our way through the two-and-a-half seasons.
Then we’d start again.

We soon spoke in AD quotes.
And bonded with others who did the same.

We realized that there weren’t too many situations in life that didn’t have a relevant quote.
And the more aggravating the situation – the more the quote made us laugh.


Then came cancer.

Life turned upside down.

The tests, the surgeries, the injections, the scans.
The nausea.  The pain.
The chemo-induced roller coaster of emotions.

The baldness.

And at night we’d watch Arrested Development.
And laugh.

Arrested Development was a taste of our old, innocent lives.
It was the craziness that made our craziness bearable.

And when the going got really tough,
And my thoughts were dark and my outlook was bleak,
A well thought-out blog post and a perfect AD quote lightened my load in a way nothing else could.

And I survived.

And thrived.

And that’s how a sitcom saved my life.

What have we always said is the most important thing?

This week, I spent two luxurious days in my first hometown — gabbing and gobbling with my lost and found cousin, Kelly.

During our wonderfully relaxing and restorative weekend, we wandered through pockets of memories from my childhood, my adolescence, my wild university days, my young adulthood and my pre-me extended family.

It felt odd to cross paths with the many versions of me. With my lost and found cousin. In my lost and found life.

Scary stats and niggling twinges of mortality can make me antsy about the quantity of time ahead.

Drifting in and out of these memory-packed spaces reminded me that life is short at the best of times. But, more importantly, that even short personal eras can pack huge whacks of life.

Here’s to great memory-making ahead.

It’s just that I was constantly being called to the phone, or I was asked a question, or I was being resuscitated

I’ve been back at work for seven weeks and, while I’ve enjoyed the geeky problem-solving, the feelings of accomplishment and, best of all, the cash, my huge challenge is time.

With 8 packed and hurried work hours, bookended by the commute, delivery and pickup of Luba, and morning and evening chores, I’m scrambling through days and letting loads of life slide.

Hyper-healthy eating takes tonnes of time. And my millions of physiotherapy, oncology, port-a-cath flush appointments, plus the getting there and wait times, really put the squeeze on my already rushed ragged routine.

I had assumed that I’d be returning to a three day work week. And, given my uber-productivity, I hadn’t dreamed I’d be denied.

But my employer couldn’t oblige.

Hmmmmm.

Have We Done Hair Off Glasses On? (7 months)

Way over-gelled today, but getting nice and long!

Related Posts:

Sorry about the photo quality. We were scrambling and ended up taking the photos at the Oat. “Not my best work, though. She wanted to look 48. I nearly airbrushed her into oblivion. Ended up checking ‘albino’ in the form

Scrapbooking Sting

I received a note, today:

Thank you for registering for the Creative Art for Self-Expression Workshop at the Body, Mind, Spirit: National Conference for Young Women Living with Breast Cancer.  This workshop will offer an opportunity to process and share the multiplicity of concerns and responses to living with breast cancer.

…I encourage you to bring photocopies of photographs of people, places and things that are significant to you.  The pictures can be of things you love, loath, learn from or look forward to. There will be an opportunity to include these images and feelings in your art-making process.

Jadzia Romaniec
Canadian Breast Cancer Network

I was thrilled and terrified. That loath made me sweat.

Then I realised: I loath no one.

I harbour hurt from four failed family relationships.
And, having zero contact with this famous four, mucky memories are my only foes.

Booyah!

The workshop’s kicking butt and I’m not even there yet.

Now, do I bring those four faces to Toronto, or no….?

Have We Done Hair Off Glasses On? (6 months)

And, thanks to chemo-induced menopause, my face is becoming furry!

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They Make Me Feel Dressier**

I never would have guessed I’d miss my Groucho Marx eye brows.

Even after I’d lost them, I would have laughed right out loud at the thought of coaxing them back.

But, tonight I did just that.

I googled growing eye brows and then slathered mine in coconut oil.

We’re hard on ourselves. It fuels the economy. But after years of berating my body, my features, my traits, it feels good to know that I’d rather be me.

With or without the caterpillar brows.

**

Incredible. I’m Having an Incredible Year

On August 24, 2009, I turned 44.

Twin digit years being lucky, I slipped into this one with humble hopes for undefined improvements.

Within a week, I’d found that lump.

It’s tough to fathom the changes that followed.

And the improvements.

I could have done without the terror, the discomfort and the physical and financial diminishments. But the net gain this year has truly been incredible.

This year I learned that life is short. That I am strong. That people are good. That my supporters are many.

And the importance of practicing joy.

This twin digit year leaves me a better, stronger, happier me.

I am immensely grateful to Mark, to Lucy, to Bayla and to everyone whose words, smiles, meals, notes, playdates, care and thoughtful actions helped create this incredible year.

And I am thrilled that I will have a chance to say some thank yous in person this Saturday as we celebrate life, good health and good, good friends. I can’t wait.

p.s. Does anyone other than Mark, Mary, Jay, Caroline and myself laugh out loud at these Arrested Development titles, I wonder?

The most lavish party this town has ever seen

Some months ago I didn’t think there was going to be a birthday party for me this year — my 40th. The truth is, I wasn’t sure I wanted a birthday party what with everything that was going on in our lives. Andrea insisted she would arrange a party for me.

Imagine that. While going through chemotherapy, Andrea was committed to arranging a party for me. And she did.

Then came last week — the week from hell. Without going into details, our family situation and stress level was such that neither Andrea nor I felt much like celebrating. In fact, my actual birthday was a real bust. We canceled party-time care for our two daughters… twice.

Then, things turned around. Andrea, Lucy, Bayla and I escaped Ottawa for the day yesterday. We had a fantastic time being together away from our troubles and away from our usual surroundings. During lunch, Andrea suggested we bring Lucy and Bayla along to the party.

It was a perfect suggestion.

And… my party ended up being better than I could have ever expected. I was reminded how great my friends are and my family had a chance to meet others who are important to me: Rick Claus and his wife Kelli, Bob Goyetche, Jay West and his wife Ann, Bob Ledrew (OtherBob) and his wife Cat, Jamie O’Farrell, Julien Smith, Robert Farrell, Maurizio Ortolani and his wife Jacinthe, and Franc Epton and his wife Lisa. Thank you for being a part of my life, being at my party and for the incredible gifts!!!

I’m an amazingly lucky guy!