adventure

Don’t Give Up Five Minutes Before the Miracle Happens

“Inching Back to Sane” Now available here in all ebook formats.

Dare to Dream and Let Your Heart Soar!

Hello my dear readers! I don’t have a poem for you today, but I thought I would still write a quick blog and add a photo. I have been doing both good and bad lately, and I thought I would share a few things that I feel helped the good things to happen that you can take as advice to do, and share a few of the bad things that you can possibly learn from and avoid. I hate to sound preachy, and it makes for poor prose, so I will try my best to avoid it.

Anyhow, I have been saving for some time and I didn’t really know what I was saving for. I can’t afford the gas and insurance for a car, I don’t have any trips I desperately want to take, so I decided wouldn’t hurt to dip into my savings to buy a few things for myself. I started out going with a friend to a comic shop and indulging myself in graphic novels. There is a Canadian artist and writer who really touches my heart when he writes, he seems to have a soul tortured by depression, his name is Jeff Lemire, and I highly recommend him. I found a graphic novel of his I haven’t read, then also bought two volumes of what I feel are the most monumental comics in comic history, I bought “Ben-Hur” and “Great Expectations” from the “Classics Illustrated” reprints. I get so much out of these condensed stories, and it inspires me to pick up the novels or any novel or history book and explore more, so I feel these are also well worth the price.

Last night I called up a friend and despite that we haven’t talked in a while and I wanted to talk with her, she answered the phone to my surprise. She is a very healthy and functional person, but there are times when she needs her solitude, something I completely understand. We decided to meet for lunch tomorrow which made me happy, because I have been isolated beyond my own control and out of my comfort zone for a number of days. Fortunately today the office of my apartment building was open and I was able to sit over coffee and talk with a couple of my friends. I live in a ‘supported’ apartment building and there is a common area at the office where some people I know often go, and I find it very healing to go down there and chat when I can.

So there I was, feeling a bit down, a bit lonely and a bit worn out from all the walking I have been doing. I came back to my apartment and I noticed I had an email. Turns out I have been picked for a great new part-time job opportunity that will help me develop mine and other people’s poetry skills. From then on I was flying on a cloud. I just can’t believe that I was so close to desperation, so down on myself and then this happened. I told my dad about it and he was very happy to hear about it but he reassured me that it was my own hard work that got me to this point. I have been doing a lot of things, not only to battle my mental illness and try and find meaningful work, but it just feels so good to finally arrive at the point where I feel I no longer have to worry, that I am on my way as a writer and public speaker, and that there are definitely going to be many good times ahead. So, my words to you, dear reader, as I may have expressed them before, is to just pound away at your passion, just a little at a time if you have to. Maybe just do one thing a day. If you don’t have a passion, I would suggest going to a community college or YMCA and looking at a class schedule and see if you can afford to take a class or two or if there is funding (free is even better) try and find something that interests you, challenges you, takes you somewhere. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. All the best to you, dear readers, all the best and finest.

My Ship Came In But I Was Stuck At The Airport

IMG_5877A few raindrops on the windshield but still some of the most beautiful country you can see

Well Dear Readers, I hope you all had a good chance to bond with your fathers or children yesterday.  I went for a very cool dinner cooked by my brother who is something of an incredible cook, having taken 3 years of formal training and many years of experience as a professional cook.  At the moment, I have the honorable task of helping edit a book that is not yet released by one of Canada’s top writers, Richard Van Camp.  The book is literally incredible, it weaves together a lot of the characters that Richard developed in his stories and the movies he made of them, including “The Lesser Blessed” and “Midnight Mohawk Runners”.  Then yesterday I was working at the Edmonton Coliseum, also known as Rexall Place, loading the trucks up from the Cirque De Soleil show.  Friday I was interviewed by an Edmonton Sun Reporter, Cam Tait and I am anxious to see how the article will come out.  And then last Wednesday I taught my second writing class to a grand total of one student, but still it was fun.  The student is a young man who grew up in this area and he is a very interesting young man and not a bad poet.  Like they say, those who can’t do… teach!

Another thing that happened this week was I completed my Wellness Recovery Action Plan course which means I can now take a further course to be a facilitator.  I think this would be a great experience for me, I have been considering writing another book with regards to mental health, only this time one with more hard data and facts and all that rather than just stories of what happened to me.  I feel there is a great power that occurs when a persona can honestly share their own stories, in fact I think it is the main problem with mental health treatment today–too many people are too worried to admit they have  a mental health issue.  The only fact I really know is that 1 in 5 to 1 in 4 people will need to seek treatment for a mental illness at some point in their lives, but if all the people who were trying to tough it out or didn’t trust Psychiatrists or were too worried to reach out for help were counted in, it could be a lot more, who knows?

Anyhow, that is the long and short of it.  In the morning I am going for a business lunch to discuss me taking on more responsibilities in the fall session of my writing class.  I don’t really know how long I want to stay up but I might have to stay up all night just to make it in.  I will most likely go for a swim in the morning to keep myself going, not an easy thing when I have worked as a truck loader the night before.  I guess the price of influence and self respect is a few nights of missed sleep here and there.  All I can really say about the last couple of years is that it has been such an amazing experience publishing a book, and then publishing many of them.  I am meeting so many people, doing so many things.  The money isn’t really there, I have sold a lot of copies of one of my books and I think if I am lucky I am close to breaking even, but writing is such a wonderful experience.  I like to quote a man named Bronowski, a scholar who was the host of “The Ascent of Man” a TV show my mom used to really enjoy, which was also a book of the same name by the same person, the quote went something like: “The magic of reading is that no matter where you are, no matter the time or place, you can open a book up and be instantly transported into the mind of the author.”  I thank you Dear readers, for reading my mind 🙂  Poem to follow below today’s second photo.

DSCF5316     This is a photo I took underwater snorkeling in Hawaii last fall

First Love

 

Please let me paint a picture here with words

A story unlike any you’ve ever heard

It all begins in a sunny late spring day

When all the little boys and girls came out to play

 

There was a little boy who stood out among the crowd

Somehow as just a lad he seemed to stand tall and proud

And a little curly blonde-haired girl caught his eye

He could have made her his friend but didn’t try

 

This cute little pair of children grew up very fast

Funny enough the girl had a crush on him as time passed

But as they went through school together it was all a game

A race to see who would first get fortune and fame

 

At first as a model and a scholar the girl did well

Though the strong young boy was going through a kind of hell

His life at home got worse as each day went by

It was all he could do to not curl up, give up and cry

 

One day when he had taken all he could

He thought of the one thing in life he saw as good

He reached out to the curly blonde haired girl for hope

He was at the end of a nasty, slippery rope

 

All at once our blond girl expressed her love and true respect

But he didn’t want to start out his life in her debt

He thanked her but then went off to make his own way

He never stopped hoping to see her again one day

 

Life had never seemed to him all that fair

It had been so awful he really thought no one cared

But still he set off to conquer life on his own

He left his friends and his community, he left his home

 

Our boy put out his thumb and headed for the coast

Overnight to all his friends he became a ghost

Vanished out of sight and out of mind

Wondering to himself why the blonde girl was so kind

 

And as some do in sunny summer days

The young man succeeded in numerous ways

But when he returned home all the love was gone

The little curly blonde haired girl had moved on

 

No words could ever win her back again

He had to face the fact that this was the very end

And so he went on living like a ghost

Drifting north to south and coast to coast

 

Then one day he met a young troubled soul

And he found that holding her made him feel whole

Soon a wedding came and not long after a child

They let the baby grow up just a little wild

 

In their humble home there was always love and fun

And before too long our boy saw past memories as done

It meant so much to just lay back and hold his child and wife

By losing his first love he was given the perfect life

 

 

Leif Gregersen

June 22, 2015

Inside the Insane Asylum

IMG_7692This is the inside of Sacred Heart Church of The First Peoples, where I go for mass when I have the time.  The Priest here is a wonderful man, Father Jim Holland and is greatly loved among all community members, catholic, protestant, European or Native (or others)

     Hello dear readers!  Well, today was actually a pretty good day.  I am still getting over a cold that has lasted for 2 weeks now and my brother has told me I might want to try something called Cold F/X which has been on the market for some time and is quite expensive, but when I hear a recommendation from my brother, I often heed it.  For most of the weekend I have been sleeping, taking these Advil cold and flu pills and when I went to the post office in my local pharmacy, I tested my blood pressure and it was way higher than it has ever been.  I don’t quite yet want to stop eating my nightly popcorn, but I am looking at healthier alternatives (like using so called ‘heart healthy’ margarine) and I have already scaled back my eating and salt intake.

Today I wanted to talk a bit about what it is like to really be inside a mental hospital.  I relate a lot of my experiences in my latest book, “Inching Back To Sane”, but I wanted to touch on it here as well today.  I was thinking about how quickly attitudes towards smoking has changed.  A few years back when I first went to AHE (Alberta Hospital, Edmonton) you could smoke anywhere, and get cigarettes anywhere.  You could even buy cigars and all that.  Even when they were cheap though, people were often very reluctant to share cigarettes, myself included.  At first I didn’t mind so much but there were literally people who would wander around asking again and again until you gave in.  One time I recall sitting in the lock-down ward and this guy (who incidentally I have seen in the community, way to go dude!) named Robert came up to me while I was smoking a cigarette and asked me for one and I told him I didn’t smoke and he went away.  Another time I was in the cafeteria in another part of the hospital and a young woman actually punched me in the face because I didn’t give her a cigarette.  It is a sad sight to see now as people are no longer allowed to smoke anywhere but outside and there is no place in the remote location the hospital is in to buy cigarettes.  I know smoking is horrible for your health and all, I had a terribly hard time quitting and still feel the effects 10 years after quitting, but people with mental illnesses are very prone to cigarette addiction which I feel has a lot to do with the fact that nicotine actually works on some of the same brain chemicals that anti-depressants and major tranquilizers work on.  I can remember days when I was relatively unmedicated and very ill that I would wake up and smoke 2 or 3 cigarettes and my thoughts would be much more normalized, I wouldn’t hear the Television saying things about me and I was able to sit comfortably and carry on conversations.  I don’t really judge the staff on this issue, whether or not they smoke themselves, but I wonder if they have been aware of all of these factors in making their decisions.

One of the things I remember clearly also about being in the hospital is the effect that your illness and ‘cabin fever’ has on a person.  Everyone on the ward, staff or patients seemed in some different way to be someone I knew from before.  There was this really pretty young Psychiatric Aide who was staff on my last (hopefully last ever) stay who bore a slight resemblance to a young woman I was very fond of in school and my mind turned this staff member into this young woman in the flesh.  Then there were other people, like an east indian staff member who looked a lot like a man I had once arrested while working as a security guard.  All in all most of the people there were fairly nice but on occasion I had some outright threats from them.  “Don’t push us.” one young man said to me quietly as he handed me my medications one night.  “If I ever see you outside of this hospital, I’m going to kick the living shit out of you.” Another staff member said to me.  If I told anyone, they would deny it, but they made me very aware that they were the ones holding the power and I was the one under it.  There was one guy who kept coming into my room to shine a light in my eyes to see if I was sleeping (I don’t know if this was official policy, but it seemed just one guy was doing it) and he would wake me up several times a night, so I kept yelling at him or asking him to stop.  One day I was put in the isolation room and propped my mattress up against the wall and snuck in behind it so no one could see me, and this guy was watching me through the small window.  He came in and I knew he was going to assault me so I grabbed his ‘life call’ emergency button and pressed it and staff came running in from all over the hospital thinking he was in need of help.

I could really go on and on, but I think the important thing to realize is that, though it was extremely difficult and painful to go through these things, I was indeed very sick and the result of me being in that situation could have easily led to me ending up in jail not a hospital.  I also want to emphasize that though my Doctor at the time in particular was a bit of a jerk and did little to help me, in the end the system actually worked and I got better.  When I got out fortunately I didn’t have to keep the same Doctor and ended up with an incredible Psychiatrist (who actually wrote the forward to “Through The Withering Storm” and has been a huge supporter of my writing efforts) who literally brought me back from the depths.  I don’t really have the room here to say thanks to all the people who did put up with my arguments and erratic behavior and still did everything they could to help me, but I would like to send out a thank you in general to Psychiatric workers of all kinds.  It takes a thick skin and a heart of gold to do it, and I have heard often that being in there can be just as hard on those people as it can be on patients.  As far as Doctors, I would like to greatly thank Dr. Petkowski, Dr. Bishop, Dr. Boffa, Dr. Chue, Doctor Gordon and many others over the years of my treatment.  And thank you, dear readers, for liking and sharing my posts so often, that is what really makes me feel what I am doing is worthwhile (with regards to my writing and blogging).

DSCF5151Take Off From YEG (Edmonton International Airport) En Route to Hawaii, with my old friend Chris Lockhart at the controls!

More About Writing, Less About Poetry

DSCF5641                                              SUNRISE JUST OUTSIDE MY BACK DOOR

Hello dear readers.  It has been a couple of days since I posted anything and I don’t really know what to write at first.  I had a long talk with my sister, who has her Masters Degree in Education and she has been encouraging me to focus more on short stories and magazine/newspaper articles rather than poetry.  I don’t really know how to take this, for some time I have felt something lacking in my poetry.  One thing I do know is that if I want to publish poetry or have any success getting a book sized collection going, I can’t use anything I post here.  I think from time to time I will try and post some poetry though, but while I am in this thinking stage I am going to refrain.  I find though that I really love taking pictures (I just purchased a brand new $500 camera) and so I have no problem continuing with those efforts.  I also can put together blogs without any worries of copyrights or publishing problems, so I want to go on with that.  I think I should start writing in themes though.  One of the things I would most like to do is to help other writers who may be starting out, so to that end I am going to put after the second photo for today a copy of an article I wrote which was turned down, but still has some very useful information.  I would love feedback on what anyone thinks of it.

Perhaps one of the themes I could work on could be some of the interesting people I have met.  For some odd reason I am reminded right now of a 28 year-old African American I met while traveling the United States at age 19.  I had been living in truck stops, trying to hustle a ride from anyone who showed any sign or indication that they were going North to Vancouver, BC or anywhere in Canada for that matter.  I was outside enjoying a cool, crisp morning and looking out at the sand colored mountains of Southern California when I started talking with this guy (damned if I can’t remember his name) and he told me that he had thought of pursuing a career as a minister.  He seemed like a good guy to count as a friend in an otherwise unfriendly place, so I decided to hang out with him.  Him and I went to a shelter in the nearby town and got a meal, some clothes and an offer of a place to stay and work to be had.  For the most part my new friend was extremely entertaining, he told me stories that nearly made me split my gut laughing, but then out of seemingly nowhere he started to talk about a rape and a murder he had been an accessory to and it really freaked me out.  One of the scary things about big American cities is that by weight of sheer numbers a lot more people slip through the cracks of what is considered normal in Canadian cities and can end up being pretty scary.  I really wanted to get away from this guy, but I didn’t see any potential harm in hanging around with him for a while though the bells should have gone off way earlier.  Those were strange times, I remember when I got home from that horrible trip that I had two blisters each the size and thickness of a silver dollar on each foot thanks to the boots I was wearing.

Well, I am going to leave off things there.  Anyone who finds this little bit of a story interesting is encouraged to read more about this and other misadventures I experienced in my two books, “Through The Withering Storm” and “Inching Back To Sane” which are under the heading, ‘books’ in the menu of this website, both paperback and e-book formats.  As mentioned, I am putting an article I wrote below the photo, please leave any comments you like

IMG_4893

 

ARTICLE ON WRITING:

Writing is simple. Pen a document, print it up, send it away and get rich. Sorry, nowhere near that easy. Stephen King once said that if you can write something, get it published, get paid for it and the check clears, you are a writer. Cool! But where do you start?

 

Perhaps you are just starting out. Start with a good computer. I prefer a Mac Mini that I use only for writing and I have Microsoft Word on it, whick is considered the industry standard. An option is to download a program called OpenOffice which is compatable at www.openoffice.org for free.

 

Where do you go from there?   “The Writer’s Market 20–” is essential. Check it out at www.WritersMarket.com where you can sign up for their newsletter and get other information. The book, at around $30.00 US contains query letter templates, advice for writers, and tons of addresses of everything from agents to publishers and many magazines. It gives you almost all the facts you need, from who to address your query to, right down to how to get back issues (always try to read a publication before you submit to it) and what the magazine pays.

 

Now that you have the essentials, or are able to beg, borrow or use other creative methods to utilize them, start reading. Read, read read! Look for ‘short story’ stickers on fiction books in your library and check them out and devour them. Read magazines, literary and otherwise (read them in the library to save $$). Sometimes I will take a bus route that adds an hour to my morning commute just to have the time to tune out and read.

 

Magazines can be a great way to start your career. I started making money with magazines simply by browsing through a copy of Writer’s Market and coming up with ideas to query them with. Not all of the magazines took my offer, but I can safely say I have added a few thousand to my bottom line just from part-time freelancing.

 

Something important is to start getting your name known, and start getting your list of publications growing. I still love volunteering for my community newspaper for free because I have fun doing, it connects me with my neighbors and it gives me more clippings each month to add to my growing pile. Not to mention I feel the experience makes me a better writer. Don’t worry that at first you will get low paying or non-paying work, it all benefits you in the long run.

 

Something else I do is sit down and write a short story when I feel moved, or a poem. Every few months I these together into a book and have them printed up at www.createspace.com which is an imprint of Amazon. For the cost of a few hundred dollars for 50 or 100 copies, I get the extreme joy of seeing my name in print on a real book. I take copies to independent bookstores, I set up signings at places as varied as Farmer’s Markets and Hospital Gift Shops. It’s all on a small scale, but as time goes by, my list of guaranteed customers grows and presently, two of my books are being evaluated by distributors and another is being considered by a publisher. Will either of these make me rich? Not likely, success can be a long journey for a writer, it may never come, but I can assure you that the path is a rewarding one financially, emotionally and in a general feeling of happiness of having accomplished something truly worthwhile.

Distant Shores, Poem of Brotherly Love

DSCF5243This is a shot of one of the best beaches I ever went to.  

You actually have to pay to go to this beach, but it was soooooooo awesome!!

     Hello My Dear Readers!  I think I would like to talk about writing today.  I don’t know how many aspiring writers there are out there, but I think there are a few.  I always say to people the first thing you have to do if you want to write is learn to keep a journal.  It’s more than a diary, it’s a book where you keep anything you want to write down, usually your thoughts, but it is good for ideas too.  I used to force myself to sit each day and write a full page about things I have done.  Now I kind of use this blog for that, but writing is writing.  I have been reading a few things about creativity and they all seem to stress trying to write every day no matter what.  For myself, sometimes I end up either getting stuck or putting out crap and so I will occasionally take a day off or two, and I find if I rested myself mentally, physically and emotionally I will go back in better shape (so I hope).  I had a book signing in my home town of St.Albert, which is a medium sized city north of Edmonton.  It went really well, sold about 10 books.  I don’t know if I’ve beaten that yet, I know with my very first book signing ever I was only selling one book (Through The Withering Storm, still available through this website under ‘books’ on the menu), and I ended up selling eight copies, which added up to just $5 less revenue than I earned the other day.  One of the neat things was having some press coverage, thanks to my good friend Scott Hayes with the St.Albert Gazette. It also helped to post the event to Facebook and let a few people know they were welcome to stop by.

     At the signing I think I learned a new trick.  I will admit you get a few grumpy people who don’t even say anything, but I originally thought if I say hello or hi to each person that went by I would get sales, but what a person really needs to sell a book is to engage the person in conversation and just be a nice person and let them know you have a valid story to tell in your work and I think about 60% of the time if I could engage people in conversation they would buy a book.

     One of the things I like about going to St.Albert is that the Chapters Bookstore they have there is a really good store.  I could easily spend a thousand dollars in one, but this time I spent $45.00 which was kind of a risk because I spent it before I started my book sales and didn’t know if I would make it back.  I ended up making double the cost of the two books back.  I think I would like to start doing book reviews when I get more followers.  To all my loyal readers that is two things I promise as this blog grows in support, I will have book reviews and contest giveaways.  I have been getting into graphic novels lately, and if anyone out there wants an incredible read, I picked up a graphic novel adaptation of a movie (I haven’t seen the movie) which was called “Kingsmen” and it was hilarious, gripping, had some great plot twists, and extremely entertaining.  I won’t talk too much about it, but I would like to say the book doesn’t cost much (I think I paid $13.00) and it is really high quality stuff, especially to anyone who likes James Bond.  Other than that, I think I will try and find another Hawaii photo to put below here because the poem for today is on a sailing theme.  All the best folks!

IMG_7460

This is actually a shot of a lake in Jasper National Park where my family goes a few times a year in memory of my mom.

You, My Dear Brother

 

Somewhere deep down there is a little more

Push hard to get yourself outside your door

A world awaits that needs someone like you

There is a chance our dreams will all come true

 

Love and riches await for all who dare

You can not tell me you no longer care

You and I brother we once had it all

This world is ours if we answer the call

 

Brothers together can change the whole world

We’ll live to see our bold flag fly unfurled

Glory awaits lets take it while we can

Stand with me brother I have the perfect plan

 

We’ll work like dogs and hide away each cent

We’ll work each day until we are all spent

One day we will buy a ship to sail the sea

For once we will be men and will be free

 

We shall set sail for distant lands and ports

We’ll drink and sing old songs until we’re hoarse

Throw a dart in the air to plot our course

We’ll live happy and free in far off shores

 

Come now with me before we grow too old

This world belongs to men hardy and bold

We don’t need this snow and bitter cold wind

Come now my brother new life will begin

 

You’ve been there for me since I was a tot

I have to say I owe you all I’ve got

Now come with me leave this place far behind

Wasting your life away is just unkind

 

We have this chance but it won’t last too long

Open your mind and sing a different song

Let’s aim for places new and women fair

With smiling faces, flowers in their hair

 

Leif Gregersen

January 25, 2015