Limitations: Multi-tasking Out!......Focusing In!


I do my best to stay active and love to go for a ride on my e-bike but sometimes forget to stay focused on the task on hand.  After a great ride to downtown Peterborough and around Little Lake, I was within a block of my house when you know it, shit happened!  Coming off the trail to cross the road into our subdivision I had to make that decision “go or stop” for traffic.  While waiting for that “executive” decision my Parkinson’s brain stumbled and seemingly sent confusing messages to the body parts.  Stop! No go! Turn in! Turn out! Hurry! Wait! With all that happening I lost control of the simple operation of riding my e-bike and down I went, hard onto the pavement.  First my knee hit in the same spot from last week’s fall (that will leave a mark). My forward momentum put my helmet as the second point of contact, not completely protecting my forehead which connected with the curb.  Slowly picking myself up, I was painfully aware of the implications of not focusing on what I was doing and respecting the limitations of living with Parkinson’s (and not being 35 anymore).

This was not the first time I have fallen but the first time I felt the need to phone my wife for assistance.  Luckily I have a cell phone for just this situation, never leaving home without it.  As she approached me walking the bike, she noticed the knee bleeding down my leg but took a minute to recognize the goose egg forming on my forehead. A few hours later, after a visit to emerge and getting an all ok, we re-planned our weekend to a slower pace for me.  On reflection I have to acknowledge the continuous progress of my Parkinson’s disease and that in my third summer on my e-bike more caution, slower pace and better focus is required.  Multi tasking is no longer an option, especially when one task involves movement, even if the other is simply thinking of something else!

Slowing Down…..Part of Change

I woke up early, as usual, this morning and did my regular routine. Check e-mails, go on Facebook and watch the National on CBC GEM. Facebook was still the postings from yesterday as most of my fellow posters are yet to get on-line.  Market place was quiet as I have only one ad, my kayak left on the site as I deleted my Yard Sale Ad from the weekend.

Yes, that will be my last Yard Sale post as I spent Saturday and Sunday donating and dumping the majority of things left over from years of picking. The $165 made from the yard sale went into the bank, the old pump organ desk when into the dumpster at Habitat, a table went back to the Mount as a donation and DVDs will be stored till the Gilmore Street Sale for the Parkinson’s fund raiser.  A few treasures of questionable value will boxed and put on a high shelf till a worthy charity requests donations and then they will come out of hiding with no inspection or regret and handed over. As I easily drive the car back into the garage, I marvel at the space created by my new minimalist way of doing things.

Not only is there space in the garage, but also there is space in my day.  Rather than hours spent on Market Place, on-line auctions and inventory management (fancy words for shuffling my latest picks), I can get to posting blogs on my website, reading my latest issue of National Geographic or The Walrus or even get into the garden once the sun comes up. There is however a little sadness as I break another pattern to adjust my life style.  The emptiness of space once filled by picking now looks like a gap between clouds in the sky just waiting for rays of sunlight to shine through.  Hopefully I will give the sun enough time to find its way before I try to fill in this space with something new.

Maybe tomorrow morning I will do something different or maybe just sleep in!

Part 3: Into Action? ...... Or Not!

With the big event behind us, I look forward in my calendar to see what I have already committed to. The Pie and Vinyl sale needs some attention with 2,000 albums in my basement yet to be colour coded, priced and sorted alphabetically. With help from Lanny and Steve this should be manageable. Delegate more to Barb and George will help and don’t forget Cheryl’s offer to help. Many hands make like work and getting more people involved greatly improves the perspective of success. Learning to share the load may well be my best way to still have big goals and successfully keep Parkinson’s my highest priority for volunteering.

Pacing myself will be my second new best friend. Need to keep any planned activity to no more than 4 hours long with opportunity for breaks as required. When my physical energy is depleted so goes my cognitive skills and my emotional balance. When I am having a bad PD day need to have the ability to say “not today” to any commitment. Respect for my limitations must override obligation to complete. As a hard task manager, I have pushed myself past the point of exhaustion on many occasions but worse than that I often dragged many people along as well.

Some other activities will be passed on or over as the priorities for my retirement years will be reset as of today. I will stick to my plan of getting out of the “buy & sell” hobby by liquidating most of my collectibles. Big yard sale in May and then clearance at the Lakefield Flea Market. Only take on one client for yard work to be out in the summer as much as possible. Hold back on the cafe development and let the Mount run itself. Into Action?…. No!…. Out of Action? ….. No! But with a laser focus on Slowing Down and doing what matters more to me!

Part 2: Not Me ........ Mini Me!

My first task was to say “NO” to a variety of commitments.  Reduction in my activities had to be a priority to regain and sustain my health and fitness. The first test was a call from Community Care offering more opportunities as a Brokered Helper.  My answer was a polite yet firm “no thanks” with no interest in even listening to the offer. A call to the PCKC Commodore to resign from the board didn’t go as well.  He pulled me back in with his smooth talking and request to stay on for a few months to complete the year end and do a hand off in April. I accepted, it still fit into my overall plan as a reasonable time line and kept a good friendship in tack. Some things took care of themselves as the entrepreneur I was mentoring moved back to previous employment and others didn’t move forward with their plans.  Although there were three opportunities to expand the Mount Food Operations, we picked one and left the others on the back burner.

Things were better but not good enough to reduce my stress and workload to allow for a full rebound from the tough winter months and hard work.  My pet project of “Food Diversion” had to be put on hold. Lack of volunteer commitment left to more work that stretched from Saturday noon to Monday afternoon for my wife and I to complete.  Catering functions pushed the café to a better bottom line but required me to jump in as the chef, cook and chief bottle washer too frequently.

My participation in a long-term study of Parkinson’s was coming to an end but needed a more days of tests before the year end.  During one of those trips, my son Luke talked about the changing environment at work and how he would leave and take a much needed holiday from his restaurant management position.  During this conversation my thoughts went back to a finance committee meeting in which I offered to be the Volunteer FCM for the Mount but recommending that a 35 year-old “mini me” would be the perfect permanent solution.  As Luke carried on with his story I looked for the opportunity to offer him a change rather than a rest.  With 15 years in the restaurant business and a Diploma in Culinary he brought all of the skills and a much younger set of legs to challenge the workload.  I also knew that he would bring excellent people skill, technical abilities, current knowledge and enthusiasm to job everyday.

Approvals were sought and gotten. Transition was expedited.  We were on our way! And true to form Luke jumped in and took to the role like a duck in water, quickly gaining the confidence of everyone around him.  He worked hard and long to meet the deadlines and very quickly alleviated stress and concerns that kept me up a night(literally).  My mini me was turning out to be the perfect fit for the job.  With a knowledge of current technology, he designed the best cost effective POS for the new Café.  His branding concept was quickly accepted over mine which was somewhat disappointing but exciting. New menu items were created, tested, costed and approved by the client.  Selection of equipment, supplies, and suppliers was done without interference as he now had our complete confidence.  Opening day was a success, on time, under budget and exceeding expectations.  All this was getting done by Luke while I slowly tried to regain balance and better management of my health.

With an outstanding obligation to cater lunch for 120 people, I was hesitant to drop this on Luke as his time commitment was already stretched. This was my last major obligation for the Mount. Like the trooper he is, he jumped in taking my notes and got things organized.  Working with my son on this catering was an experience I will treasure forever.  Stepping back, I let him formulate the plan, call the shoots, check the details and direct me and other staff.  We went through 3 days of planning, prepping, and cooking 10 turkeys, 100 lbs of potatoes, gravy, peas and apple crumble often coming up with the same solutions, ideas and suggestions.  We worked like a team, no stress, lots of genuine conversation and collaboration never loosing focus on the meal ahead.

Luke left me in great shape to serve the meal with the buffet set-up and food transported to the Parish Hall.  A group of volunteers assisted with the serve and smoothly transitioned to the dessert course.  After lunch I was given the opportunity to speak about the work we do for the Mount and the Pantry and I had to mention both Luke and Andrew as collaborators on this meal as well as other projects.  It was emotional moment to share with the crowd and was rewarded by a standing ovation.  Only would have been better if Luke & Andrew were there to share it.

Luke will finish up soon with hopefully others jumping in to provide the same level of tenacity, perseverance and commitment to the job. He had even fixed the old food mixer which deemed deceased by the nuns of St. Joseph had been given a full funeral in days past.  It was easy to see Luke’s ease in this kitchen which he had transformed into a professionally functioning production facility over the past two months with one last major piece of equipment to be installed to complete his design.

Part 1: Slow Down ........ Do More!

In my career as CEO, CAO or other executive level positions, I was active in many different meetings, projects and committees effortlessly flipping from one to another, always keeping a very full schedule. Full steam ahead on as many projects as possible and if work didn’t provide enough challenge, why not volunteer or better yet get a part-time job or hobby to fill in the odd free weekend.  And why did I think I would be any different in retirement or even with the complications brought on by my diagnosis of Parkinson’s?

Aye yes, retirement! Sleeping in late, afternoon naps, out for coffee with friends or spending the day in the garden or shop puttering on a small project. What happened to those dreamy ideas of my golden years?  Wait a minute, the volunteer work with Community Care was just to help out my friend Mike with his project, then came the opportunity to be a Brokered Helper and pick up a little extra cash.  That won’t be a conflict with my PCKC board position and my volunteer role at the Mount and doing fund raising for Parkinson’s.  But how does it all start to pile up with home obligation to two big golden retrievers that need daily walking, my boxing classes and Nordic walking for my own fitness?

And things got more complicated.  My role at the Mount expanded to being the Volunteer Food Center Manager assuming a lot of the cooking duties for catering events. The mentoring of new food entrepreneurs and helping with volume food product became a regular thing.  A food diversion program was my idea and got me committed to Saturday noon and Monday afternoons in the kitchen. This was now a 30 hour per week obligation. The PCKC position turned into being the treasurer with a year-end coming up and budgeting for next year.  The brokered helper role was soon 5 mornings a week in gardens all over town with fall clean up on us.

Our Parkinson’s Chapter was also in need of help as we were trying to transitions from the original leaders of the organization to fresh energy to let the “retire” from their demanding roles and spread the workload out to the members. I took on the transition coordinator role, collecting job descriptions, designing organization charts and building consensus.  The plan needed to be done to provide us with a new structure for the next year. 

And why not start to gear up my “buy & sell” hobby which took a lot of screen time attending local auctions online and in person.  It is always easier to sell than buy and there definitely was a need to sell more to fund further purchases. More time was spent online to negotiate prices, arrange pickups and list more products.

The final straw was the opportunity to expand the foodservice at the Mount to three more locations in the city.  With two options pushed to the back burner, the third was agreed upon and off we were on another time consuming project.  And me, I was about to collapse, the cold winter was complicating my Parkinson’s symptoms and my ability to rebound from a string of hard shifts was not there anymore.

What is a guy to do? I needed a change in activity level to get some balance back to my life and I told the board at the Mount we needed a mini-me to help with the new café project. I knew that this was my breaking point and action was imperative.

Spring, a time for positive change.

As the snow and ice finally leave with the temperature rising I can get back to walking the Parkway Trail with my dogs. I like to do a 5 km loop which seems to get my whole body loosening up and gets me into a better frame of mind. Although using Nordic walking sticks is a better work out, there is a feeling of guilt leaving my dogs at home. Changing from winter hiking boats to summer runners is also a big improvement making my feet quite happy.

This year I am also going to go one step further to improve my diet. After consultation with a nutritionist, my vegan diet will now be adjusted to eliminate foods not compatible with my blood type of “O-”. It has been proven that various foods can produce inflammation in the joints and cause a number of other body stresses. The biggest change will be the elimination of coffee as my morning beverage and substitute a variety of teas. Today was the second day without my java and definitely brought on a bit of a headache. There are a number of other foods to avoid which should be simple to delete or replace in my Forks over Knives food plan.

A change in supplements was also required as my B6 was not compatible with my medication. New supplements added include Astaxanthine Plus (4 mg), Curcumin the active ingredient in Tumeric and Ginkgo Biloba for the brain. The disadvantage of making all these changes at once is that it will be difficult to identify which of these has the biggest impact.

Another change will be to introduce some yoga into my exercise program. The recommended 5 poses for Parkinson’s will become part of the pre-boxing workout at GoodLife on Chemong. Yoga has been getting a lot of press lately as one of the best overall programs for general health. I have also accepted an invitation to try a Tragar treatment which has been developed specifically for Parkinson’s.

Will report back as I further monitor my wellness and especially measure up in my next assessment with Dr. Lang in June. .

My shortest but toughest journey

Making the journey from my head to my heart!

During an interview with a Trent University research student I found myself becoming very emotional when describing how I felt about being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. It seemed to be one of the few times that I was confronted by the question of how my life has changed as the progressive disease has taken a little more of my energy, mobility and cognitive abilities away. I reflected of the lower level of performance I have gradually learned to expect from myself in all areas of my life and that my golden years may not be what I had planned. I had hoped to work into my late 60’s but that became obvious when even my downsized “final job” became extremely challenging and came to an abrupt end, not by my choice.

For the last few years I busied myself with part time work and volunteering for a number of organizations. I also pursued my hobby of antiques and collectibles making a much better “buyer” than “seller”. Busyness kept my emotions at bay and recognizing the full impact of my new reality. Last month was a time of major commitments that saw me over extend myself to the point of burn-out.

The interview came at a time that I was wrestling with where I would put my energies with the realization that the list of things to do must become more in tuned with my current situation. As a guy who has always felt measured by the things he is “doing”, it may be the time to focus on who he is “being” in the future. Perhaps “being” a good husband, a better brother, more available father or uncle could be more aligned with my new reality. Accepting doing less may be the first step in being or feeling more. Letting go of the past, doing stuff with/in my head to being more in the present touching people through emotional availability from my heart. So off I go to trim my to-do list and reconnect with people that may have been sided stepped in the past. So if you get a call, say hi & chat for a bit, that is if, you are not too busy!

New Member Secures Big Sponsor!

I know there is always a hesitation to ask for donations of products or services, even harder to ask for big bucks to sponsor our events. But if we are to succeed we need to overcome this fear and go for it. Dave George did just that by recognizing that as a valued customer of his local car dealer he had the opportunity to make such a request of John Stewart, owner of 4 major dealerships in the area. Dave secured an appointment with the big boss and called for back up which I was more than happy to provide. Although I thought I was fully prepared, I had not brought a key document describing the deal with me. It was me that fumbled about and finally call Jef at Oldies 96.7 to e-mail another. Finally with the document on his desk John committed to the $1,500 price tag. To celebrate, I rushed out to my Jeep to get the Smucker’s Blueberry Pie I had prepared on the weekend, cutting three pieces for us and ensured the rest of the pie went to other staff at the dealership. Thanks Dave for taking the chance and getting the sponsor!