You Can Never Really Go Home


I was about 12-years old when I first heard that phrase, “You can never really go home.” I wasn’t quite sure what it meant, thinking, “Whaddya’ mean never go home? I went to a camp last year and came home!”

When I finally left home at the ripe old age of 17 and subsequently returned a couple of years later, I understood. A lot had changed at home. Not realising at the time that I too had changed. Friends were no longer around to hang out. Some family had left for new adventures. My old bedroom was no longer mine; it had become a guest bedroom, and I had found myself in it.

It is unquestionably a rite of passage to leave home to make your own home elsewhere, and I would argue that it is another rite of passage to return home after that first absence. It is something that almost everybody experiences. And, it is something many people go through more than once. In my case, each time I returned something had changed.

We never return specifically to our home; we return to our parents’ house. As adults, most people, myself included, will always refer to the place we grew up as home.

“What are you doing for the holidays?”

“Oh, I’m going home.”

“Where did you grow up?”

“My home is in Saskatchewan.”

“Wow, you are far from home.”

All of these were parts of actual conversations I had as an adult. My home has not been in Saskatchewan since I was 17, and that is over 30 years ago.

We tend to get homesick for something that is no longer there. What we are nostalgic about is the memory of home. The big family get-togethers, the camping and fishing trips that start at 4:00 a.m., the friends you played hockey with on the street until you were called in for supper. Street hockey aside, these things are no longer available to me. (I don’t play street hockey anymore, but the option, given the right conditions, is still possible.) My mom has Alzheimer’s and has had to move into an assisted living place for seniors. So, as it turns out, I can never go home again, because the house, with the yard I once played in, has become someone else’s.

Despite all that, little has changed with my lexicon.

“Are you going home for Christmas?” asked by my colleagues.

“No, I’ll be going home next year.”

True, the yard is no longer available for backyard barbecues; our clothing no longer hangs on the laundry tree; and the garden, where, inexplicably, strawberries never made it to the kitchen, would no longer be a summertime ritual, but the memories are still alive and well.

Calling someplace home is perhaps best described in Robert Frost’s poem, “The Death of the Hired Man.” He wrote, “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.”

— at least, that is the hope.


My Red “Whine”

red-wineI get headaches from drinking red wine. Apparently, I am not alone in this conundrum. It seems every time I talk about this, people can relate, or at least know of someone with the affliction. It is a sad thing to deny oneself a drink that may boost heart health, improve cholesterol, fight weight gain and improve memory. They should add this to Canada’s Food Guide; it’s a bona fide superfood… in moderation of course.

Even though “leftover wine” seems to be an oxymoron in our house, it is not from over indulgence, well, not usually. A headache can occur after drinking only one glass. I have to say, however, that it is not all red wines that give me this unpleasant experience, so I keep trying.

Often things usually start quite innocently with an offer of red wine to which I respond, “Sorry, I can’t drink red wine. I get headaches.”

Hosts usually look at me with a mix of puzzled amazement or sadness as if I had just drowned their puppy.

“Oh come on, have just one,” the host pleads, “It can’t be that bad,” thrusting a glass of the red elixir my way.

Or, it might go something like, “Oh, I don’t have anything else to give you. Are you sure?”

Not wanting to offend anyone, I usually cave with a “Well okay, but just one.” Then, I must live with the consequences.

There are a few theories milling about on what causes red wine headaches. The most popular of which is said to be Sulphites (SO2). SO2 is a key ingredient that occurs naturally in all wines giving them antioxidant and antibacterial powers used to preserve its freshness. While it is true that people can be allergic sulphites, I would say that it is probably not the cause of your headache. If it were the culprit, people would react much more violently to a number of foods, including baked goods, deli meats and bacon, because these types of foods contain sulphites at a much higher rate then that of wine. In fact, many wines end up having 0 ppm because sulphates deteriorate over time. Suffice it to say that I am incredibly grateful I don’t get bacon headaches.

Many also blame the release histamines that create allergy-type symptoms. Problem is most allergy-type symptoms like itching, sneezing, hives, runny nose and watery eyes are never present. If your nose runs after drinking red wine, I would suggest you have a different issue.

There is another theory that many people cannot metabolise prostaglandin, which may cause headaches. The definition of prostaglandin is way too long to discuss in this article. Suffice it to say that the solution may be as easy as taking prostaglandin inhibitors like Asprin or Ibuprophin less than an hour before drinking red wine. (This is probably not the wisest advice as extended use can lead to unwanted adverse reactions. I am not a doctor, so please consult yours first.)

Researchers say that the problem could originate with the yeast or other bacteria found in red wine. Researchers also admit that they don’t really know the cause. But, one thing’s for sure: odds are if you indulge in a night of excess and wake up with a headache you have a hangover—Another self-induced alcohol-driven malady that people have been trying to cure for centuries.

Red wine headaches are not a very popular research cause. Understandably, the wine industry is not interested in throwing money at something that could throw shade on their livelihood. There is no Run for the Cure race or ice-bucket challenge to raise awareness and funding. True, it is not as popular as… let’s say… the research for Viagra, but rest assured, even though they are a small group and they may not yet have the answers, there are people out there dedicated to finding a solution.

Although the verdict seems to be still out on what officially is the root cause of red wine headaches, I am sure that denying myself the drink of the Gods is not the only answer. Hopefully, someday I won’t have to say those dreaded words, “Sorry, I don’t drink red wine.” Until that day, I will stick to mostly white wines and keep on trying the occasional red–you never know, maybe one day, I’ll grow out of it–just a theory I have.

To your health!

Rewarding Incompetence – What the Sears IS going on?

Sears Canada recent promotional banner
(Photo credit:

In the face of insolvency, Sears Canada has had to ask for court protection from its creditors. The problem, besides the obvious, is that the people that hold the keys to the executive washrooms have given themselves bonuses in the midst of laying off thousands of workers without a severance package.

Companies usually pay bonuses as an incentive to do good work, or they are paid as a consideration for a job well done. Leading a company to bankruptcy is not the definition of good work or a job well done. If the average worker does not perform well, he or she could see a decrease in the amount they receive as a bonus or no bonus at all. If an executive does not perform well, why is it that he or she be allowed to get a bonus? If everyone rewarded incompetence, our nation would go broke. It does not make sense.

We have seen this scenario before, most infamously with the collapse of the housing market started by our neighbours to the south, which had a devastating ripple effect throughout the world. In that case, bank executives, charged with fraud over the subprime mortgage fiasco, were still given millions in bonuses. Many of these companies (and don’t doubt for one second that banks are not companies in business to make a profit) say they need to pay out bonuses to executives to get or retain the best executive staff. How can these people be the best at anything when they are in effect the worst the world has to offer? What Sears Canada is doing to its employees and former employees is morally reprehensible. They happily walk away with their bonuses acutely aware that people at their feet are drowning.

These bonuses are not a paltry amount either. In the case of Sears Canada, 43 executives and senior managers and 116 general managers will receive $9.2 million dollars for leading the company to bankruptcy. Good Job! That is an average of just over $57,800 for each person if Sears distributes that amount equally. The truth of the matter is no matter how the company distributes the money it is people within the upper echelons of the corporation who will receive the benefit; no clerk, cashier, or sales associate will see a penny.

If Sears Canada had chosen to distribute these funds to all concerned, including the 2,900 employees currently on the chopping block, they would each get about $3007 each; that is certainly enough to tide most people over until they work out their next move. I am also positive that if Sears Canada had taken this route, they would have more than enough employees to work throughout the “transition” – a euphemism for the state of bankruptcy the company has found itself.

Managers and executives complain when Millennials quickly move on to their next job, screaming, “There is no loyalty anymore!” Perhaps Millennials have it right. Look what dedication has brought the employees of Sears and other companies who see fit to put their loyal and dedicated employees through the ringer without a second glance.

It doesn’t take rocket science to see that this is not the way to ensure employee loyalty and retention. The 65-year-old company has a reputation of standing behind every product they sell. The company executives and management should also support and stand behind their employees by paying their severance packages; it would be the right thing to do.


Flight Attendants Wanted


There is something to be said for taking care of yourself before others. At least airlines have this right. “If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person.” On a personal level, many of us struggle to put us first. On a governmental level, however, this should be the norm.

I understand the difficulties of running a country must be seemingly insurmountable. People who have been wronged need to be helped. People facing crisis need to be helped. Decisions must be made on how best to hand out funding. The number of people and groups asking for financial aid is not small, and there needs to be some kind of prioritising and safeguards put in place to ensure our tax dollars do not fall into the wrong hands.

The question of whose hands are the right hands is seemingly difficult. All Canadian governments of all stripes have missed the mark, but it does not have to be that way. That question should not be difficult at all. At the risk of sounding a bit like a certain American president, who shall remain unnamed, I would put forth that any, if not most of the funding should go to helping Canadians first.

We have a long history helping other countries when called upon. We do this because we are a nation of givers, helpers and humanitarians. Helping others is entrenched in our Canadian DNA. One does not have to go outside of our borders to see what Canadians are capable of. From the train derailment in Lac Magantic, Quebec to the Fort MacMurray, Alberta forest fires, we have seen Canadians come together to aid their fellow neighbour. Even complete strangers who needed food and shelter during a massive American airplane diversion to Gander, Newfoundland in the days of 9/11 were greeted with open arms. It did not matter if you were rich, poor, or what nationality you were, you were helped, no questions asked.

As a fellow Canadian, I have no issue with helping other people of other nations. I do question helping other nations when there is so much wrong here. I am not saying to close the doors to refugees or to aid other countries. I am saying other nations can only be best served when a country’s own financial responsibilities to its constituents are met first. This does not mean Canada becomes a socialist state – far from it – this means that a nation with a healthy, prosperous population is always better equipped to help others in need.

It is true that Canada’s track record on foreign-aid spending in comparison to other countries like Sweden, Australia, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Norway is not that great. In fact, according to an annual report from Global Canada, Canada is in last place, but there is no requirement that Canada must keep up with the Joneses in foreign-aid spending. When you are talking about billions of dollars spent in someone else’s back yard when so many of your own citizens are struggling for all kinds of reasons to make ends meet, there is something wrong. I believe the majority, if not all, of those billions of dollars, could be better spent at home before helping people from other countries.

I do not come to this lightly or easily. I have always thought that helping others no matter where they are from was the right thing to do. I still believe this. However, because there seems to be a disconnect between our government and all people that desperately, and clearly need help right here in Canada, I question our government’s priorities when spending on humanitarian projects. There are certainly many other human issues our country could deal with before they look to help other countries in need.

Just a few questions to ponder: Why must our military veterans beg and plead to get the help they need? If someone has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and asks for help, why is it so difficult to get it to him or her? Why is it that entire villages in Canada in 2017 don’t have clean drinking water? Why is it that when a railway line is cut off due to flooding, an entire northern city and points beyond cannot get assistance to repair said line so that the flow of food and necessities are not hampered by delays that could cause death? Why is it that so many senior citizens, who have worked and paid into government coffers, are struggling and living below the poverty line? Why do disabled people have to wade through a myriad of red tape to get any assistance benefits?

Does not our government realise that these types of worries can cause undue stress and perpetuate other disastrous and chronic health problems which create a domino effect where our already taxed health care system takes more hits? Sick and poor people cannot help a country’s economy. If the disabled and seniors are left to live with benefits that securely places them below the poverty line, how can this help anyone?

Part of the problem, I believe, is bureaucratic red tape. Must we pay millions of dollars every year to have tribunals, public inquiries, Senate hearings, studies to make recommendations that are obvious to everyone? I do not think it would be too difficult to ensure that benefits for the most vulnerable of our population; our seniors, our sick and poor should be enough do not leave them in an impoverished state. I understand the need to ensure value, but when the need is blatant, any study is a waste of money.

Decisions need to be made quicker. We must stop ignoring the problems we face in our own society, and help our own people before we can step forward to help other nations. Perhaps Canada should hire their own flight attendants? I’m sure they’d be saying something to the effect of ‘Put on your oxygen mask, Canada. Save yourself first.’



Practice Does Not Necessarily Make Perfect


“The struggle itself towards the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart.”      —  Albert Camus

There have been times in my life when I’ve needed to take a risk that I’ve been scared to fail. These fears often crop up when trying new things like public speaking, job changes, and, well, the list does go on. My fear of failure often stems from a constant fear of not being good enough. Although perfectionism can drive many people to do great things, it’s this incessant hum of needing to be perfect that rolls around in the back of my brain that has held me back in so many avenues of my life.

I know what you are thinking, at least those of you who know me. Perfectionist? You? When most people think of perfectionists, they often think of high achieving flawless people with type A personalities who can multitask under tremendous pressure, and who always exceed expectations and come out the other side unscathed. They probably do not think of people, like myself, who let things go uncompleted, or often seem to settle for less.

My past is full of opportunities I let go of because not only did I feel I was not good enough, I often felt that I could not get good enough at something fast enough. You see, with some perfectionists like myself, the need to be perfect is so powerful that if the perfection does not come quick enough, we let it go. For example, over the years I have tried to learn the ukulele, the guitar, the harmonica, the recorder, and the saxophone. Although I learned to read some music, and I managed to play a couple of songs, it was never good enough. My perceived lack of musical ability was enough to stop me from continuing.

Although I am still too self-critical, some things have changed. I know most things in life require practice. After all, I’ve been able to succeed at many things that needed practice. Without it, I’d still be eating my food with my fingers and forever tripping because I could not master shoe tying, let alone the ability to walk. All masters need to practice their craft. But mastery does not always equate to perfection because there is always something else to strive towards at the end of a goal.

I have learned that perfection, because it is impossible to attain, should never be the end game. Striving for perfection will most often lead to disappointment, because you will always be chasing an impossible to achieve end. So, don’t seek perfection; strive for doing, because it is in the doing where you will find growth and a healthy sense of accomplishment. You find excellence in the act of doing, the act of practising, and in the act of learning. Practice may not make perfect, but it sure allows you to be more engaged, more focused, more efficient, and, as a side benefit, it makes you a more well-rounded person.