# Choosing My World

The past week has been, well, thought provoking to say the least.

Earlier in the week I learned that a former office mate was killed in a car accident. While I didn’t know him other than as the always smiling Masters student who shared an office with me, his sudden death was a shock. He was 26 years old, and based on our brief exchanges while we shared office 309A together, and based on the things I have read that his friends and family have posted since his death, he was full of life.

Since learning of his death, I have found my thoughts have often wandered to him – wondering how cruel it seemed that his life had been cut so short, wondering what those he left behind must be going through. I have answers for neither of those things. All I know is that his death has struck a chord in me.

That chord – that still raw nerve that had been struck earlier this week – was struck again today.

This morning I learned news of a friend – someone much younger than me – that took my breath away, quite literally. My heart ached and my stomach turned on news of a terminal illness. Again, I wondered how cruel it seemed that someone so young would have to face their mortality in this way. How was this fair? Knowing this person as I do – so full of life, so amazing, so smart, so positive and happy, and gifted with one of the best smiles possible – the kind of smile that beams from every corner of their face – how could I accept this outcome as anything but cruel and wrong?

Obviously there is no rhyme or reason to disease and death. There is no way to accurately predict where and when our time will come. Sure, we can attempt to evade both as long as we can with pills and diet and exercise and even machines, but there are no guarantees, no sure fire solutions, no magic, no last minute pleas with whatever higher power you might believe in. At least, I don’t think there are. But then again, I don’t really know. I’m not sure anyone knows really.

What I do know is this – our time on this earth is limited. It’s not enough to just wake up and go to work and come home, lather, rinse, and repeat. It’s our responsibility to live every day as best as we can. I’m not suggesting that it’s our individual duty to solve all the problems of the world, but I am suggesting – demanding even – that we at least wake each morning with the goal of making our little worlds better. Smile. Help someone. Be kind. Hug your friends. Bear hug your friends. Tell those you love that you love them. Tell them again. And remind yourself that you too are loved and are capable of amazing things.

We can’t control many things in this world, but we can control how we choose to live in it. This week I was very much reminded of that.

# Twice As Deadly, Not Nearly As Furry

I am a giant ball of sloth deep fried in boiling liquid gluttony. That’s right folks, twice the deadly sins for the price of one. I’m what you’d call a bargain1.

At least, that’s how I feel after today’s meal. Seriously, I should have worn my eating-pants, or perhaps clothed myself in the finest dining-tarp money could buy.

Well, being Father’s Day I headed off to my parents’ place with my younger brother to celebrate all things fatherly. This of course meant eating. And lots of it. Beyond the delicious spread that the fathers in the room prepared2, I also was tempted – and ultimately succumbed to – homemade strawberry rhubarb pie that my mom had made for the occasion.

So. Freaking. Tasty.

Looking back to the old-time-y days that were last week, I realize that I had started this weekend with so many good intentions. First and foremost, I wanted to get in a long run. Second, and just as important, I wanted to get in a long bike. Sadly I accomplished neither. In fact, if there are things that could be considered the opposite of a long run or a long bike, I did those things. Add in the gluttony that came with today’s meal, and I’m feeling like a large bag of gelatinous goo. And a lazy one at that.

Fortunately, I’m going to fix this first thing tomorrow. And how am I going to do that? Well, I’m going to bike to school for one thing – but that’s not really anything new. I’m definitely going to run in the eve – but this too is not really anything new. What’s going to fix this feeling is the fact that I officially need to start training for my next 30km race and my next marathon. Because, I may or may not have just signed up for the Toronto Waterfront Marathon4, and I may or may not be signing up for a 30km race in August5.

And oh yeah – Happy Father’s Day all y’all. Of course, by all y’all I don’t actually mean all y’all of you. Just the fathers, fathers-to-be, and the fatherly types out there. Happy Father’s Day to you.

1 You should probably write that down.

2 The fathers – being my dad, and my brother Bernie – actually prepared and cooked the meal, because apparently that is how one celebrates Father’s Day. Or in this case, Fathers’ Day.

3 Apparently it is also now the tradition that should the dinner guests enjoy their meal, the chef gets tossed into the pool. My nieces thoroughly love this tradition, and took great pleasure pushing my dad in.

4 Hells ya I did.

5 Hells ya I will.

# Hey Mama

In the event that you’ve somehow forgotten, today is Mother’s Day. For those of you that have forgotten and have a mom that should be called, I suggest that you get on the horn and wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. You’ve got a few minutes left before you’re in the ‘bad’ or ‘neglectful child’ territory.

As for me, I just got home from my parents place. Clearly the point of the eve was to celebrate my mom (and of course, my sister-in-laws who are both mom to three). The eve was, as always, a lot of fun1. Furthermore, I am stuffed to the gills and am suffering a mad case of food sketch as a result. Because of said food sketch, this post is going to be a quick one as I’m having a difficult time maintaining consciousness, and clearly need to go to bed2.

Given that it is Mother’s Day, I wanted to take a short moment to say thank you to my mom for everything that she has ever done for me. I could try to list everything, but that would clearly be futile. The list of things that I know she has done for me would go on forever. The list of things that I don’t know would be longer.

So thank you mom for everything. Thank you for getting up early with me. Thank you for taking care of me when I was sick. Thank you for helping to quiz me when I was studying for math or english or history when I was in elementary school. Thank you for worrying – then, now, and more than likely in the future. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I can’t really say it enough.

Mostly, thank you for the love. It has been a staple in my life, and it has been a major source of my strength. Without it, I’m pretty sure that my life would have been very different. With it, I know I can do anything. I am the man I am today because of you.

Also, thanks for the date squares (past, present, and future – hint hint). I love those things. ;)

1 It probably didn’t hurt that my dad and I decided to sample some scotch.

2 Which is something my mom would encourage, so given that today is all about my mom, I’m going to use that as an excuse to be selfish and go to bed early.

# Holy Expletive-ing Hell

Yesterday I received a phone call from my Dad. It went something like this:

Dad: By the way, I had to take your mother to the hospital today because of chest pain.

Me: A short moment of stunned silence where I processed this little nugget of slap-me-in-the-face reality and what it could mean, while at the same time bracing for what was to follow. What? Is she alright?

Dad: She seems fine now. They’re keeping her for observations to test her heart. Apparently she’s been having chest pain for about a week.

Me: What1?

Anyway, after some further conversation I hung up content that my mom was fine.

Flash forward to this morning. I was lying in bed with the wee fuzzball when my phone rang. Normally my phone does not ring at that time of the day, so it startled me and scared the bejesus out of Elliot. It was my Dad. This morning’s conversation went something like this:

Me: That’s good. I replied, although immediately wondering what was up.

Dad: Becky [my sister-in-law] had to take Makenzie [my niece] to the hospital. She’s got some blockage or something.

Me (rather incredulously): What?

Dad: They’re at McMaster. She probably needs surgery.

Me (again – incredulously): What?

Dad: But they had to be there anyway, because Sydney [my niece - Makenzie's younger sister] is having her heart tests today2.

Me: Holy expletive-ing hell. You have got to be expletive-ing kidding me.

I chatted with my Dad a little further before we hung up so that he could pass on the information to my other brothers.

Fortunately everyone is going to be fine – I mean, my family is nothing if not resilient3.

However – and pardon me if I am so bold – I have to ask:

Dearest Universe, what gives? Another round of hospital visits and surgeries? Really? Really? Because the month Haley spent in the hospital wasn’t enough? And the months that my brother spent in the hospital – also not enough? Really? Really? Are you expletive-ing kidding me?

You know, lining up all of these things makes the situation almost comical. Almost. I mean, how can so much happen in such a short period of time to one family? It’s beyond comprehension. The only thing that keeps me from losing my mind is knowing that Bernie and Becky have already survived so much and have come out of all of it stronger than when they went in. My family too. So I know we’ll get through this, and that in time the pain and worry will fade to a distant memory, replaced with happier memories full of my nieces’ laughter, and their mischief, and lots of shenanigans.

Because if we’re good at anything, it’s clearly getting through situations like this.

And shenaniganning. We’re really good at that too.

1 Dear Mom, are you freaking kidding me? When one has chest pains, one does not wait for over a week to get them checked out. You are so grounded5.

2 Sydney’s heart, it seems, has decided to race. Who it’s racing, I don’t know. All I know is that at times it is racing about 3 times too fast, and for no apparent reason. I’m thinking perhaps she’s a hummingbird. I’ll let you know how this theory pans out.

3 As evidence, might I remind you of the little boo-boo my brother Bernie has been dealing with since last October, and the minor bought of flesh-eating disease that my niece Haley dealt with just almost 2 years ago4.

4 And yes, for those wondering, Sydney and Makenzie are Haley’s sisters. Bernie is their father. So yes, at present the family has one member who kicked flesh-eating disease’s ass, one sister who is dealing with some weird heart issues, one sister who just kicked her appendix to the door, and a father who survived a wicked car crash. I’m pretty sure that means they are made of Awesome.

5 It’s so hard to raise parents these days.

# The Shenaniganning Continues

Sometime last year – early November to be somewhat more specific – I received a text from Rick about a new and wonderful adventure.

On receiving the text, it took me all of about a millisecond to respond with a resounding hells ya.

Well, flash forward a few months – basically just far enough to be a few weeks ago. Rick mentioned to me in an email that he and his family were going to be doing some adventuring once he makes his way back to Ontario for the Annual Meeting of the Statistical Society of Canadain June.

Despite the fact that Rick and I have also planned our own sets of adventures beyond what he’s going to be doing with his family2, I was still the teensiest bit jealous of the adventuring they were going to do. In fact, I may have had a minor pity party as I sat in my office and pouted. Then I realized that Rick should have time with his family and I was just being a big stupid baby. And big stupid babies are the stupidest of all big babies. I did not want to be a big stupid baby.

And then something work related happened, and I completely forgot about Rick’s family adventure.

Until today, when I received an email from Rick outlining the details of his family day-o-adventure. But this wasn’t an email to brag or to punch me in the face with his awesomeness – this was an email to inform me about when I should be booking if I decided to join in on the fun.

I beamed. After calming myself, I sent him a quick text to make sure it was okay to tag along on a family adventure3. Thankfully, his brother Ryan was the one who opened up the adventure to non-family members, so Rick assured me that it was fine. And that was all it took to remove any sense of intrusion from my mind.

Within several minutes, I was on the phone with visa in hand. Several minutes after that my reservation was set. Because that’s how we plan things – an adventure is found, and everything after that just sort of happens without too much thought or effort. And I love that about our adventures.

So there you have it, dear readers. You now have the story of how I managed to book my next skydiving adventure with Rick- June 8th to be exact – the sky is the limit, and I can’t freaking wait.

1 Also known as nerdfest 2012.

Such as zip-lining5, and hopefully the CN Tower Edge Walk6.

I’m guessing that the lag between email, calming myself, and texting Rick was no more than 2 seconds.

Satisfying item #183 on my Not-So-Bucket-List list.

Satisfying item #20 on my Not-So-Bucket-List list.

Satisfying item #201 on my Not-So-Bucket-List list.

# Look Out! It’s Almost The Future

In a few short weeks some of us will be getting over the first wave of holiday gluttony (also known as Christmas), perhaps by loosening our belts, or deciding to sport jogging pants for a solid week because they are just so “comfy” and not because our other pants have mysteriously shrunk. We’ll also be prepping for the second wave of overindulgence. I am of course speaking of New Year‘s celebrations. While I haven’t figured out what I’m doing yet (as I might be spontaneously jumping on a plane with a friend to go see Stevie Wonder in concert in Las Vegas), I do know that the new year will bring new and exciting challenges.

Given that, I figured I’d take a bit of time to reflect on various things from this year in order to set some new goals for the next. I’ll be doing this over the course of several posts, as I’m sure things will pop into my head that I haven’t thought to write here. Mainly this is so that I have something to measure my success and failures against. I’ll also be covering several recaps, because it just seems like the thing to do. Make sure you pay attention though, as there’ll be a test at the end.

Anyway, the first thing on my review list: fitness goals for 2011. This year I wanted to walk 1800km, run 500km, and bike 2000km. I also aimed to hit 20000 minutes of yoga. The only goal of these I actually managed to achieve was running. In fact, I’m likely going to end up about 11% higher than I initially suspected. My total mileage (erm, kilometre-age) in 2010 was 2553.9km (which includes biking, running, walking, and hiking). In 2011 I’ve managed to put in 2689.1km so far, and expect to put in 2794.1km. That’s roughly a 9% improvement. Sweet.

Overall, I’m absolutely stoked with my results. I somehow have managed to run more than 500km, topped last years total mileage, all while being somewhat sidelined due to hernia surgery (which essentially destroyed my attempt to be athletic in August, September, and October). Awesome!

Total Distance by Category & Goal (2011 to Date), and Expected Yearly Total
Item Goal Mid Year Almost End Of Year Expected End Of Year
Walking 1800 km 801.8 km  1384.9 km 1450.0 km
Running 500 km 373.8 km  510.1 km 555.1 km
Biking 2000 km 373.9 km  794.1 km 794.1 km
Yoga 20,000 min 6275.0 min  10685.0 min 11135 min

So where do I go from here? Well, of course next year I hope not to be sidelined by any silly surgery. I also fully plan on running 3 marathons (I may have just thrown up in my mouth a little bit), and finally, finally, finally completing a 100km bike ride (if not 160km bike ride). So without further ado, here are my lofty goals for the coming year:

• Walking: 1800km. Given that I lost a significant portion of walking due to my surgery, I’m sure I can hit this target. It works out to less than 5km per day. I typically walk about 5.8 per work day, so really I think this is completely within the realm of possibility.
• Running: 750km. I figure with 3 marathons on the horizon in 2012 that this might actually be an underestimate of what I could end up achieving. It does, however, represent a 50% jump from this years goal so perhaps it’s a bit high. Who knows. Ultimately it translates to just over 2.0km per day.
• Biking: 2000km. I’m guessing that surgery also majorly derailed this particular goal, so 2000km should be possible for 2012. It translates to about 5.5km per day.
• Yoga: 20000 minutes. Yes, I’m aiming high again despite the abysmal showing this year. And why not? This really works out to less than 55 minutes of yoga per day, and given all the other stuff I’m supposed to do daily, I’m going to need the time to stretch.

So there you have it folks; the first of my New Year’s goals. Assuming I spend 55 minutes walking per day (my typical slow-ass commute), run for 10 minutes, bike for 20 minutes, and then follow this up with 55 minutes of yoga, all of these goals are completely possible. Of course, this means I have to exercise for about 2hrs and 20 minutes each and every day, but stranger things have happened.

And now, to celebrate my setting of goals for 2012, I’m going to go have some chocolate. And maybe a scotch. Because everybody knows that scotch isn’t just for mountain tops and classy bitches; it’s also for Calorie deprived aspiring athletes.

Some other tables, for those interested:

Number of Activities by Month and Year (Excluding Yoga), Plus % Change Year Over Year.
Month 2010 2011 % Change
January 0 19 $\infty$
February 0 23 $\infty$
March 15 30 100
April 12 32 167
May 21 43 105
June 38 46 21
July 35 59 69
August 48 13 -73
September 39 21 -46
October 38 20 -47
November 17 30 76
December 6 12 100
Total 269 348 29
Total Distance by Month and Year (Excluding Yoga), Plus % Change Year Over Year.
Month 2010 2011 % Change
January 0 179.0 $\infty$
February 0 173.4 $\infty$
March 50.4 209.8 316
April 132.1 226.5 71
May 198.0 324.6 64
June 316.1 369.9 17
July 507.0 547.5 8
August 448.4 117.3 -74
September 307.5 160.9 -48
October 404.4 105.8 -74
November 139.6 196.2 41
December 50.4 78.2 55
Total 2554.0 2689.1 5

# Saturday Night Reunion

It’s Saturday night and I’m sitting at the hospital with my brothers Sandy, and Aidan, and my sister-in-laws Becky, and Shannon. Bernie is sound asleep down the hall (thank you sedatives, morphine, and a healthy brew of other pharmacological treats), thankfully oblivious to the machines that go bing, and hopefully dreaming about something more exciting than his hospital bed.

Yup, tonight’s gathering makes for a rather bizarre little family reunion, but a family reunion nonetheless.

At any other family reunion we’d likely be sharing a meal with several bottles of wine; laughing and carrying on. Tonight, it’s a little different. There is no food. There is no wine. But rest assured, there is a lot of laughter. Which is exactly what I think we need. Despite the severity of the situation, laughter in my opinion is always welcome. That’s not to say that there aren’t tears; there are. But overall, most of our time has been spent chatting about this and that, and laughing. Heartily.

Overall, a pretty awesome Saturday night given the situation.

# How My Brother Got His Boo-Boo

Last night around 9:30pm I received a phone call from my mom. When the phone rang, I was just sitting down to a late dinner prepared for me by Dom (which was absolutely delicious, and also already delayed by me as I had spent some time on the phone chatting with my friend Matt). Anyway, when the phone rang I half considered not answering. I figured my mom was calling about my Christmas list – but then I remembered that I had already emailed that to her – so I picked up.

Hi Dan, I’m just calling to let you know that Bernie [my brother] was in a car accident. Becky [his wife] is on the way to the hospital.

Unfortunately my mom really didn’t have too many details. I was left knowing only that he was taken to the Simcoe hospital, and Becky was on her way. My mom informed me that she would keep me posted, and asked that I tell my brother Aidan (whom she tried to reach but couldn’t).

As the event unfolded, I ended up speaking/texting Becky, and my brother Sandy. He was headed to the Hamilton General Hospital (as they decided to move him from Simcoe to HGH for better care). This made me a bit anxious because it made the event a bit more real, and seem a lot more serious. Of course, not having information made my mind race; something I try to control because I find it anything but helpful. Up until that point I think I just kept thinking it’s nothing. Sadly that was an understatement.

Between texts/phone calls with Sandy, my mom, and Becky, I learned that Bernie had been t-boned by a distracted driver at a t-intersection. The road Bernie was driving did not have any stop signs or lights. The other driver however did have a stop sign. From what I understand, she/he was smoking and dropped their cigarette. When they bent over to pick it up, they took their eyes off the road and slammed right into my brother. Unfortunately they hit the driver side head on. This sent my brother’s car into a roll. I’m not sure exactly how many times it rolled, but more than once is too many times in my books.

I still don’t know who called the police/ambulance, etc., but someone did (thank you to whomever that was). I don’t know who used the Jaws-Of-Life to cut the roof off of the car (but thank you to whomever that was). I don’t know who pulled my brother from the car (but thank you to whomever did). I also don’t know who took care of him and got him to the hospital (but thank you to whomever that was). I also don’t know all of the people who worked on him, took care of him, and kept him with us (but again, than you to whomever you were). And I have no idea of all of the people who will help him through the next few days, weeks, and months of his recovery (but a big thank you in advance for all that you are going to do).

All I know is that Bernie is still with us. He is banged up pretty bad, but it’s nothing that he can’t get through. I know this for several reasons. First, he’s a Gillis, and we are notoriously bull-headed. And if that isn’t enough, we are also Ennis‘ (on my mom’s side). If you think Gillis’ are bull-headed, you’ve never met an Ennis. So yeah, we are doubly bull-headed. Second, I’ve seen him deal with so much more and come out the other end with a smile on his face. I’m speaking of course about the month that he and Becky spent last year watching over their daughter, my niece, Haley, as she battled with the flesh-eating disease, sepsis, collapsed lungs, cardiac arrests, etc. And third, he has a family that will kick him in the ass if he thinks about slacking off or giving up (which of course I know he won’t do because of the first reason I’ve provided).

Of course, I also know the next few days, weeks, and months are going to be a challenge on many levels. But he will get through this. We all will. Because that’s what Awesome does. And he is, if nothing else, Awesome. And so are we.

Anyway, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has already shown their love and support, those of you who have sent messages, and words of encouragement. Please continue to do so – they mean so much to all of us.

For now, I’m just happy to let you know that my brother is stable. While his pelvis has been shattered, while he has a collapsed and perforated lung, a fractured skull, a lot of bruising, and a broken collarbone, he is by no means broken. He simply has a rather large boo-boo. But nothing that he can’t and that we can’t handle.

# Mom-ku

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers, moms, mas, mamas, and mums out there.  Whatever you call your mom, make sure to take the time to say thanks for all of the things that she has undoubtedly done for you since you came screaming into this world (and for the 9-10 months prior to that).

Seriously, you wouldn’t be here if not for her.

Anyway, the other day I discovered that the New York Times was offering a challenge to its readers: write a 6 word poem to your mom (called a momoir).  Being one that enjoys a challenge, I offer up to you my response followed by a mom-ku (i.e., a mom haiku):

She magically kisses all pain away.

Boo boo fixer; Best hugger.

Happy Mothers Day!

Mom,

Thank you for everything you’ve ever done for me, and for all of those things that you will most likely do for me in the future.  Thank you for all of those obvious things that you do, but especially for those things that I never knew that you did.

Thank you for making my bed and doing my laundry when I was young, and teaching me to do it when I was older; even though I didn’t understand the importance.

Thank you for teaching me how to bake cakes and cookies; and especially for letting me lick the bowl.

Thank you for my curfew and all of the rules that I hated and questioned; thank you for letting me question them.

Thank you for worrying about me, even when I worried that you worried too much.

Thank you for disciplining me, for letting me know when I hadn’t lived up to my potential; it made me a far more conscientious person.

Thank you for accepting me as I am; it has made me a more confident man.  Thank you for teaching me how to be a good man.

Thank you for making sure I did my homework every day immediately after school; I’ve no doubt that it played a significant role in my PhD.

Thank you for forcing me to dance with you in the kitchen whenever a song came on that you loved, despite the embarrassment I might have feigned; I secretly loved every second of those moments.

Thank you for singing.  Some of my favourite moments involve you singing to me; especially when I was sick.

Thank you for the constant hugs, the affection, the love; don’t ever stop those.

But most of all mom, thank you for being the most amazing woman I have ever met.  You are strong, and intelligent, and a constant source of inspiration and amazement.  You are an amazing person, and someone whom I look up to.  You have taught me so much about how to love, how to live my life, how to share it with others, and how to be the best person that I can be.

There is no way I can ever thank you enough.

# Thankfully Awesomeness Does Not Lead To Spontaneous Combustion

While Christmas is so 2010, I feel the need to bring it up.  Why?  Well, this year was the first year in a long time that the entire Gillis clan was together.  My two older but just as immature-as-me brothers, their respective wives, my younger brother who wishes he was as awesome as me, my very patient parents1, and the next generation of awesome; that being all 5 of my nieces, and my newest nephew, were all in one room.  How this much awesome was contained in one room without leading to the following article on Boxing Day is beyond me:

The gathering on Christmas Day also represented the first time we attempted a full-on family portrait (save for those that were taken at either of my older brothers’ weddings).  Clearly, it was time to capture the awesomeness that is our family in one epic photo.

As such, and without further ado, I present to you the 2010 family portrait of the Gillis clan.  Aidan played the part of photographer, and he managed to capture some excellent portraits.  Of course, I didn’t want to inspect all 1,5002 of them, so I provide you these three. They were taken within a very small span of time, so you get a sense of the nonsense that occurs when we get together.

For the record, Sandy & Shannon have 2 daughters and 1 brand spanking new son (in order of appearance): Madison, Meagan, and Ethan. Bernie & Becky have 3 daughters: Makenzie, Sydney, and Haley.

It’s clear from the following portrait that the nieces and nephews are filled with Gillis awesomeness.

And as always, I have to make things awkward-hilarious.

1 I mean, with raising 4 boys who at one point were all less than 10, and at another point were all teenagers, you’d have to be patient.

2 I have no idea how many photos he actually took. I’m far too lazy to check. I can say with confidence that the total number ranges somewhere between 1 and 1 googol.