What Would YOU Say to You in YOUR Valedictorian Speech?


Time travelling time… close your eyes and settle back into the days when you were first an “adult”… living on your own, supporting yourself, making your own life decisions, taking responsibility.

Look closely at the picture of young you, a you without wrinkles or sore joints, a brain not totally cluttered with information overload, a full head of hair that doesn’t resemble thinned cotton batting, firm of voice and musculature.

You consist of all those desirable things that physically are optimum, humming along at peak operation, a brand new Tesla with a full battery… BUT…

… you are green and inexperienced, naive and over-confident, perhaps supercilious even?

Now, imagine yourself in a cozy chair by a warming fire, sipping a cup of tea and chatting with the YOU that was THEN.


What would you say to yourself? What words of reflected wisdom would you share from a life lived through an additional decade or two, perhaps 5 or 6?

This is deep stuff to mull over; to review those things you would like to change or strengthen or eliminate, or… hopefully celebrate… in the choices you’ve made, the directions you’ve taken.

I remember reading a book a number of years back titled Letters From A Businessman to His Son… I don’t recall it really well other than I liked it and took away some helpful ideas to digest. There are a number of other books out there of a similar nature… notes of wisdom learned and earned through life lived.

To take on this introspection is akin to giving a Valedictorian Speech to yourself… ponder yourself as someone like David Foster Wallace (This Is Water) or Steve Jobs or Mother Teresa, people who had immense life experience and made not only great successes, but also terrible mistakes. To live is to be HUMAN, in both the good and bad.

Today, I’m going to give a brief “Valedictorian Speech” to myself with 8 small thoughts on just a few of the things I think of as important in what I’ve done and what I could have done, knowing then what I know now. Too, some are reminders of what I should be doing today where I continue to slip despite knowing better.


None of this is new or original, but repetition is always helpful, right? So let’s go…

  1. SLOW DOWN/SHOW PATIENCE – I’ve generally tended towards living life in a rush. My inner to-do list each day typically includes 3 more items than I can reasonably do and do well, so I run from one item (or one person) to the next so that when my head hits the pillow at night, I feel like I’ve checked most of them off my list. So I say, slow down just a bit young man and yes, “smell the roses”… revel a bit in the moment… see the smiles or frowns, taste the tastes, hear and see the nuance in so much of what you are involved with. You may accomplish less, yes, but you will appreciate more. Appreciation of all that is good and feeling more deeply the less good, makes for a richer life.
  2. FOCUS – this has connection to the point above. By slowing down and focussing, by taking time and patience to work hard and intently at fewer things that you feel passionately about will give you a greater connection and sense of satisfaction and well-being. I’ve learned this over a long period of time through my love of making music, but I also know that it extends to anything that is truly important for us. FOCUS, for me, has been my great A-HA discovery in life.
  3. LISTEN AND APPRECIATE – If I have a “beef” with my fellow humans (and I won’t exclude myself from the category), it is the lack of true listening and attempts at understanding that keeps us at a distance from a better, more humane world. Listening intently to each other is a lifetime learning quest that EVERY ONE of us should work at daily.
  4. HELP AND PROTECT THOSE WHO ARE WEAKER – despite all the talk of us being created equal, we remain fathoms away from any true resemblance to equality, which means that we, as individuals, and as a world, need to strive to protect those who for whatever reason are thrown into the world with unintended disadvantage(s). I’ve said many times here in this blog and to myself that I won a lottery prize in where and when I was born. I’d be foolish to suggest that we all deserve exactly the same life and benefits, but the ideal to move more in that direction would benefit us all.
  5. BE WILLING TO LOOK STUPID IN ORDER TO BECOME SMARTER – as a young man I know you hate to look stupid in front of others, to ask the dumb questions. But you know what? Very few others can look outside their own internal thoughts and worries to care much if you look dumb. Worry not – so long as you have an honest intent to grow smarter by asking and doing the dumb things to better yourself, then DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY!
  6. REMEMBER TO SEE THE WORLD IN GREY – EVEN TECHNICOLOUR – AND NOT SOLELY IN BLACK AND WHITE – the world is filled with nuance and complexity… don’t let yourself fall into the trap of seeing only the surface of what is said and done around you. Many will spew opinions (or what they believe are facts) with only a tiny understanding and no wish to know more. Take your time in weighing the meaning of those things that look simple but in fact have so many more aspects and ripples. Showing how convoluted and contradictory life can be, also heed OCCAM’S RAZOR that says, often the simplest, obvious solution to a problem is the best solution.
  7. BALANCE LIFE – try to avoid a seriously concentrated life that focuses only on one or two aspects of a complete set of human traits. Health and happiness will follow…. Belonging. Community. Creativity. Curiosity. Family. Love. Mental and Physical Health. Purpose. Fun.
  8. ACCEPT THAT CHANGE IS CONSTANT AND INEVITABLE – the world is a metamorphic thing… change always has, and always will be with you, day after day after day. Accept it, and don’t let it make you bitter or disillusioned. The world you know as a young person will not be the same world you live in 30 or 40 years from now. Your children and grandchildren will experience the world differently from you. Some things will be worse, and some will be better, so get used to it. Be willing to listen, learn and change your mind a hundred times during your years as you discover more along the path. Learn from the changes, interpret and resist if it makes real sense to resist, but don’t resist merely because something is different. Learn to tell the difference. Enjoy fully the positives.

FINAL CAVEAT: Unless the “positive” above is a positive result for a sexually transmitted disease, then don’t enjoy fully.

The Coolest Game on Earth


Sure, he lives in the States, but deep down in his heart lies the lifeblood of a maple leaf-pure (oops, Canadiens-pure) Canuck.

I’m talking, of course, about my friend Jim Ferguson who regularly jumps in here to share with us his more serious, as well as lightweight thoughts on everything going, much the same as this ADHD’ish Man On The Fringe has for some years now.

Jim and I met in the hallowed halls of Stanton Yellowknife Hospital in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories (in Canada’s Arctic region) in 1977, and have been fast (but growing more slow) friends ever since.

During our stint in the frozen north, Jim and I played hockey together… actually against each other, as I dressed for the Westown Wheelers and Jim was a member of the Twin Pines Totems.

But enough about olden days from me. It’s time for Jim to bring out his pads and tell you about his most Canadian of experiences… take it away Jim…

Yvan Cournoyer

Today I want to blog about a topic near and dear to my heart and the hearts of most Canadians.

No! I’m not talking about beer, poutine, smoked meat sandwiches from Dunn’s Famous Smoked Meats in Montreal, or where on Oak Island Captain Kidd’s treasure is buried. I’m talking about the “coolest game on earth” …


Hockey is part of the very fabric of Canadian life for so many of us (count my mum out… she despises the game for reasons to be discussed later).

How often have you heard someone say that hockey is “part of our culture”? If I have heard that once, I’ve heard it a million times!

We eat and breathe the game and have strong allegiances to our favourite teams and our favourite players. For me it has been, since I was a wee lad, the Montreal Canadiens, and my favourite player was always the Roadrunner, Yvan Cournoyer – all 5’ 7” of him flying up and down the ice with great speed and scoring highlight reel goals from both sides (he was ambidextrous).

I have great memories of watching Les Habs on Hockey Night in Canada (HNIC) on Saturday evenings with my dad and brother.

It was hard not to be a hockey fan growing up in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia in the 1960s.

We would receive hockey gear for all birthdays and at Christmas too. We rarely missed HNIC on Saturday nights. Those “original six” games were something to behold even on our B & W TV.

We had a small lake a ½ mile from our house where we would scrape off a rink and play hockey from morning until supper time, day in, day out during the winter months. In the summer we played street hockey all the time. What’s not to like about that schedule, eh?

My dad was an excellent hockey player growing up in Quebec in the 1930s and 1940s. That was certainly an inspiration for me to want to play.

He was a good goalie and in junior hockey played against the likes of Jean Beliveau and other eventual stars of the NHL. He boasts that the “pre-Habs” Beliveau never scored on him although he did split dad’s head open cracking him across his “melon” with his stick in frustration one time.

My grandad and grandma were even approached by representatives of the Canadiens seeking permission to move dad to Montreal to finish high school and to groom him for the possibility of eventually trying out for the junior Canadiens and maybe the “big club” one day. But… his parents refused, and dad (seen in photo below-top centre) would eventually join the Royal Canadian Air Force where he backstopped the Western Europe RCAF Flyers against the top European teams during the 1950s.

I played organized hockey growing up in Dartmouth NS during my younger days and then in the Annapolis Valley during my high school years. I loved the game.

I was on the Central Kings Rural High Wildcats in grades 9, 11, and 12. In grade 10, my parents decided I needed an “attitudinal adjustment” and a shot in the academic arm and sent me to Kings College School (KCS) in Windsor, NS.

KCS, founded in 1788, is the oldest boy’s school in Canada (now Kings-Edghill).

I remember my dad selling me on the KCS opportunity by telling me “they have a good varsity hockey team and it’s a private school, so you are on the ice every day if you make the team”. That was enough to sell me on the opportunity.

What he didn’t tell me was that the coach at the time was an egomaniacal former American Hockey League (AHL) goalie and former junior hockey coach in Halifax who used to compete against my dad, who was then owner and coach of the Dartmouth Junior Arrows across the harbour.

Let’s just say that the coach made my life a living hell when I tried out for the team BUT I had the last laugh (I think?) …I made the team.

One other interesting hockey point about KCS worthy of mention. There has been and continues to be great debate in Canada as to the birthplace of hockey. The debate centres on whether the game originated in Montreal or at KCS in Windsor NS!

Having the KCS connection, I am promoting KCS as the birthplace of hockey (no bias here, eh!). Evidence suggests that the lads at KCS took the Irish field game Hurley and adapted it to the ice in the 1800s and the rest is, as they say, history.

Varsity hockey was a main sport at KCS in 1973-74 when I was a student there. No doubt the history of hockey at KCS was a strong motivator for us kids to want to play for the varsity team. It certainly was for me.

Not everyone is a hockey fan.

As noted above, my mum has NEVER liked the game and has always felt that dad, my older brother Dave, and I wasted too much of our time in front of the TV watching “those damn games” or playing the game.

My dad continued to play as an adult for whatever squadron he was with at the time.

I played at all levels through high school and in a brutal adult league in Yellowknife as a young man. Larry and I both played in that league, and it was a battle every game especially against the RCMP/Yellowknife police team – the dirtiest team of the five teams in our league. I still have bruises and pains from those games…😊 [Ed. note: Me too!]

Mum was so against our love for hockey she eventually developed a sadistic streak and started to watch HNIC with us and cheer on the OTHER TEAM just to piss us off! Thankfully that only lasted a season or so and she got bored.

I loved the game so much that when I was in Nome, Alaska from 2002-2005, I teamed up with a few guys from Minnesota who also love the game and we started a youth hockey program for the kids of Nome.

We built a NHL-sized outdoor rink and before you know it we had almost 70 kids sign up. We did an old-fashioned “equipment drive” through the mail in Minnesota and scored many boxes of gear, skates, etc from a Catholic high school team in St. Cloud and we were able to outfit the whole group of kids with much of the gear they would need.

We would practice and play in all conditions including MINUS 20-degree temps. These kids were dedicated and hearty boys and girls.

Lastly, I spent 6.5-years in Alpena, Michigan working in a busy family medicine clinic.

The “biggest game” in town was the high school hockey team and the rink was packed for every game.

Jim wearing his Alpena jacket but playing outdoors at -20 in Nome, Alaska

I decided to take in a game during my 1st winter in town and one of my friends was manning the penalty box and mentioned to the coach that I was Canadian and a former hockey player. Next thing I knew I was talking to the coach after the game, and he asked me if I would serve as an assistant coach of the team to which I said “absolutely”.

I spent 6 seasons as an assistant coach, and working with the youth sharing my passion for the game only deepened my love for the game even more. The highlight of that 6-year run was making it to the 1999-00 Division 1 State finals where we lost to a powerful private school in the title game.

So now…at 64-years-old, I have turned my attention to my 85-year-old mother-in-law and have brainwashed her into thinking she is an avid hockey fan…😊

We sit in front of her TV watching games a couple of times weekly and I get to tell her who to cheer for and of course she is a Habs fan (much to the chagrin of her son back in Boston…😊)! It doesn’t get any better than that!

Game on!



Jim’s Dad Ian playing goal with the RCAF in the mid-1950’s

My Fun And Often Futile Relationship With Food

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Food is Fun.

Given a carefree choice, with no negative repercussions, I would happily live on junk food… probably? maybe? ummm…

Yes, I truly could hungrily wolf hamburgers, feast on french fries, slurp milkshakes, gobble pizzas… inhale chocolate, and devour cheesecake. Ad libitum

The perfect atheist Heaven for me would be a hybrid McDonald’s and Cheesecake Factory that served me fat, sugar, and sodium-laced breakfast, lunch, dinner, and multiple snacks in-between.

My early childhood was replete with the chemical and technological wonders of 1950’s and 60’s-style technology.

This was mostly new-age junk food fed to us under a strange and implicit (mis)understanding that it was actually the best food for the human body… created by humans, sent into the world and marketed with a message telling us it was the easy-peasy, modern road to health using the very best scientific knowledge of the day (and yup, a lot of that messaging still exists).

Cruddy pseudo-food was sold on radio, TV, and magazines presented alongside esteemed doctors preaching from on high about the healthiest cigarettes you could smoke. It was a Mad Men diet filled with truly terrible choices like Cheez-Whiz, Spaghetti-O’s, and Pop Tarts. Spam spam spam spam, spam spam spam spam…

My loving mother doted on me by making chocolate chip cookies and muffins each week that I happily scarfed down resulting in my “husky” size as I entered my teen years.

One major truth in my life is that despite being a very active sports and fitness guy… sadly… I’ve always been able to easily out-eat my exercise compulsions, even while training intensely for Ironman races.

So, like a zillion others, I face a day-to-day love-hate relationship with food.

In this perpetual war (I’d like to call it the Hundred Years War, but that is still TBD!), I lose many battles. My weigh scale and I have been mortal enemies at times…

But also, to my good fortune, I win back a few food’ish battles too (kind of reflects the Russia/Ukraine scenario doesn’t it?).

The end result over my many decades is that I tend to hover – back and forth – in a BMI (Body Mass Index) category that sits in the category called OVERWEIGHT.

I say good fortune, but I’ll accept personal responsibility like a good adult for whichever direction the needle wavers on the weigh scale.

When the needle creeps up, I’m usually not surprised. French fries or potato chips twice in one week + movie popcorn + a light beer? Especially when I could have the side salad in their place? BAM… another pound.

A second (or… third!) piece of chocolate cake at a birthday celebration? What was I thinking? Yup, another BAM!

This is never good for someone who is striving to join in the Centenarian Olympics. But it is human nature and I love myself despite these weaknesses!

A New Era?

In the past year or two, I’ve been intrigued and captivated by the Intermittent Fasting trend (fad?).

The judgment of science on this nascent movement is in limbo, but common sense at least says that fewer hours spent eating usually means fewer calories going down.

So these days I typically adhere to an Intermittent-Fasting-Lite approach to eating.

Twelve hours on, 12 hours off. No special adjustments to what I would normally eat otherwise, EXCEPT… No evening snacks or anything else passes my lips other than green tea until the following a.m.

For me this is doable, and doesn’t – in typical DIET fashion – feel like a struggle or an imposition. It’s become a habit like regular exercise and eating lots of vegetables, which is what I want.

And most importantly, my weigh scale rarely – almost never – tells me I’ve strayed. We hardly ever argue anymore. Sure, we don’t vacation together or share inside jokes but the expletive deletives have dropped right off!

Food is life. Food is pleasure. Food sustains us but it is so much more.

Food is like sex. You can do it fast or you can do it slow. Both have their enjoyable moments, both can be wrapped in guilt…

… and thankfully, both are highlights of the human condition that we savour.

The Unbearable Suffering of the Dog and the Underdog


It’s DOGGY Day!

I dig in a lot on this blog site about fighting hard to stay positive.

It’s a pep talk I push at you and also send back at myself, because it’s so difficult and takes a lot of reminding.

So, like a good Jewish mother, remind I will.

There are tsunamis of negativity out there in the news and in our daily experience that could drag us into a pit of despair, frustration, and anger; it takes huge energy and eternal optimism to remain at the surface of an ocean of negativity.

Making this even more challenging is that all my life I’ve felt like a lucky guy who both somehow attracts, and is attracted to, the melancholy couture of the underdogs of humanity and also the suffering of dogs and all other animals.

I have a positive and a negative pole of mourning.

I want everyone to feel like they’ve experienced the luck and good fortune that I have in their brief shot in the billions-to-one lottery win that is life.

I identified with the underdog and felt empathy for those who were tossed in fate’s storms. In early grade school, I would encourage the outcasts to sit beside me on the bus during school trips.

I love this empathy and I hate it simultaneously because I want to play God and relieve the anguish that so many endure… and most times… I can’t.

To attempt at being a superhero to those in need, while dealing with my inner narcissist, is a nasty duel that doesn’t often turn out as I hope.

Early this morning I was standing in the checkout line at my local Superstore, and there was a pair of men right in front of me, unloading their groceries onto the conveyor belt. Honestly, I felt a bit nervous and threatened by their appearance.

Mid 30’s, unkempt, small tears in their dirty t-shirts, gaps in their teeth, some even blackened with decay.

One looked like he may have been First Nations, I can’t be sure. He fidgeted a lot as his items were put through the scanner.

After all the items were through and totalled up, he decided he needed a lighter, so I slid my cart back so he could reach the shelf where chocolate bars and miscellaneous things (like lighters) were held. He grabbed one and put it on the conveyor belt. The cashier scanned it and told him his updated total.

He looked back and forth nervously and said he wanted a chocolate bar. I slid my cart back again and he reached for a Kit Kat but changed his mind and turned to another shelf where he struggled to decide, before slowly picking up two packs of gum and putting them on the conveyor. Once again his total was read out.

He pulled a charge/debit card from his jean’s pocket and held it to the reader. It let out a loud CLONK sound. Payment REFUSED. He did it again… same CLONK. The cashier suggested he try putting the card inside the reader and enter his PIN code.

Head hung low facing the ground, he shook his head, turned first left, then right, then wordlessly walked towards and out the exit door, his three full, plastic grocery bags remained sitting to the left of the cashier.

I could almost feel tears in my eyes as I sensed his shame and disappointment, maybe even rage, I’m just guessing.

Quickly, my emotions turned to anger and disgust when the woman shopper in her 50’s behind me shook her head and muttered disdainfully… “Those people“.

Her judgment utterance was instantaneous and I felt shame again but in a different vein than the shame I held inside just seconds earlier.

She judged the fellow (as did I but in a sad and not critical way). And now I was judging her and making assumptions about her. Talk about a vicious circle and one that highlights so much of what we all see in the world today.

“The practice – Catch yourself before you are judgmental. How do you stand in awe at what people have to carry rather than in judgment at how they carry it? You are catching yourself all the time.”   
Father Gregory Boyle (NYT Times bestselling author)


We all judge at times (I do frequently), and see the other as a problem.

One little lesson I take away from my years of working in a lab and collecting blood samples from patients goes like this…

The people I encountered everyday were more than likely struggling with an internal worry and fear.

They may have had anemia, or leukemia, or cancer of a thousand varieties, or just an annoying vaginal itch that wouldn’t stop irritating.

Yes, they may have looked normal and healthy, but, with few exceptions, these folks were brawling with an inner voice that said over and over to them that they could be very sick or even dying.

If they snapped at me or didn’t respond to niceties, my negative judgment evolved over time from irritation to patience and compassion. I wasn’t walking in their shoes, and if I was, I would likely act in the same manner I told myself.

So nowadays when I’m in the supermarket and something a bit unusual happens like the incident I’ve talked about above (and no one is in danger), I (YODA)- try to find my inner compassion (and I’m not always successful), because I don’t know the story of their life or this moment.

All the dogs out there, whether two-legged or four-legged deserve my best attempt at understanding.