Week 23 & Mental Health

I could hear it in her voice when she said hello. How are you? I was returning my daughters call from 30 minutes earlier. Olivia is an addictions counselor and she moved up north at the beginning of January to do this. One of the young men she has been working with for quite awhile had committed suicide the day before. She was hurt and she was sad. One of the deals about being a parent is that when your kid hurts, you hurt. I never asked his name so I know I’ll sound clinical when I call him “her client”. Her client was a 23-year-old male addict who struggled with his addictions. We talked about him for awhile and the progress he was seemingly making but that progress can disappear quickly with an incident or set back. I have always been proud of Olivia for choosing Social work  and I commend her and all Social Workers for what they do and what they contribute to  our society. I knew when she became a Social Worker that this day would happen and unfortunately it will happen again. I know my daughter well and if we have Social Workers then I am very glad she is one of them. She’s awesome at her job and we need people in this line of work who care about people, society and their belief that they can and will make a change. She’s been doing this since she was in Junior High when she and some friends put on a fundraiser at school to help the victims of the disastrous tsunami of 2004.In a few years, in between grade 11 and 12 her and her friend Emily would spend their summer in Mozambique, working in an orphanage for children who had AIDS or had lost their parents to AIDS. I was hurting for my daughter but at the same time I knew there was no one better suited for this work than she is. I’m flying up to see her this Thursday for the weekend and I know we’ll discuss this more.


The unfortunate thing is she will see this again. I have spent 25 years in the rooms of recovery and I have seen too many suicides. One is too many. I’ve seen more than that. Most of us, in recovery or not in recovery, have been touched sometime in our life, by suicide. It’s a human condition. I don’t judge anyone who has committed suicide and contrary to some others I don’t believe it’s a selfish act. My pal, Tim M committed suicide on an Easter Sunday at his home. Tim and I came into the rooms together about 1 week apart.  We even had the same sponsor. I had no idea Tim was even close to this. There were no signs, no cry for help, it was his final act. It happened a year and a half after we first met. So often the people left behind ask why and what could I have done? Nothing could be done. The signs are often camouflaged by an outward appearance that is a lie. I feel for these people who do not see an alternative. Imagine the desperation and hopelessness someone feels when suicide, to them, is their best option. I don’t believe it’s a selfish act nor do I believe there is a lot of thought into the ones left behind. It’s an act of insanity and sadly it’s temporary insanity. I have heard the phrase so many times, “a permanent solution to a temporary problem”. I hold hope that the person contemplating suicide will have a moment of clarity and get to an emergency room where a temporary commitment can be enforced and hopefully there can begin something new and different that offers them hope.


This video of a famous Ali speech is a must watch and at only 3:21,why not? This is not about boxing or about sports. This is about something far higher than that.It’s so good!


The song this week is from Coldplay


The quote this week is :

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life’s search for love and wisdom.

Week 21, Long Weekends and Richard Rohr

The sun was shining every day of this past Victoria Day weekend and I can’t remember the last time that happened. We usually prepare for a spring snowfall on this May long weekend but not so this year. Every day was a beautiful,sunny and warm day. I pressure washed the outside of the house, the deck, the patio, the garage and the parking pad and cleaned off a couple shelves in the garage too.  Lori did a lot of work in the garden and yard. I also went through an old trunk of mine that is full of “stuff”. Mostly it’s all knickknacks’ and pictures from the past. These are things that only have sentimental value, which I want my kids to have, later. You know, when I’m gone. Ha-ha.  There’s crayon coloured placemats and tickets from concerts and sporting events that we attended. It’s just a bunch of “stuff”. I got caught up in it though.

Saturday night we met Samir and Kim at Aladdin’s Casbah .We had a fantastic supper and a visit that matched. Aladdin’s is a must if you’re from Calgary. Its south on MacLeod Trail at Avenida and worth the drive. This is not just the best Lebanese food in town this clearly some of the best food I’ve had in Calgary. If you’re not sure what to have I recommend starting with the tabouli and baba ganoush for appetizers and then order the mixed grill for a main course. If you go on Saturday night the belly dancer starts around 830-9 and you definitely want to be there for that! The food, the staff and the restaurant will have you planning your next visit to Aladdin’s .

I have a spot by some framed jerseys that needed some chairs but they had to be the right chairs to fit in with the sports jerseys. I said to Lori that I thought a couple of leather chairs would be the right fit. She got on Facebook ,checked into Calgary buy and Sell and immediately found two, brown distressed leather chairs that fit perfectly and I won’t say the price because it was such a good deal I almost feel guilty.


This picture of me and the kids is from 1996. I found this while cleaning the garage on the weekend. Pure gold! It looks like we’re at Elbow Falls


one of the pictures I found cleaning the garage. Emma,Me,Liam and Olivia


I’m presently taking a 9 week course from the Center for Action and Contemplation  . The course is “Breathing Underwater” and it’s to enhance the book by Father Richard Rohr titled Breathing Under Water ; Spirituality and the Twelve Steps. It’s been a great course and it’s given me a considerable amount of spiritual goods to reflect on. This is the second time this year I will have read this book. It’s been well worth my time.

I’m also reading Stephen King’s book , On Writing , Wayne Gretzky’s book Stories of the Game and I’m dabbling in a book of poetry my sister Nancy gave me for my birthday 2 weeks ago. It’s a book of poetry all based on Canada’s game, hockey! It’s called Hero of the Play I’ll get the first three finished by the first week of June and I’ll continue to dabble in the poetry book.

Cheers to the Nashville Predators for getting past Anaheim to be the first team in the Stanley Cup Final this year. This is their first ever appearance in a cup final in the 19 years they have been in the NHL. I’m really happy for the city and their fans and hope they do well. They now await the winner of game 7 between Ottawa and Pittsburgh. I would think if Ottawa ended up in the final it would be a nightmare for the NHL since Nashville and Ottawa are both small market teams and I can’t imagine there would be quite the TV interest that you might see in a NY Rangers versus Los Angeles Kings final. So I’m pulling for Ottawa and maybe we’ll see these two small market teams play for the Stanley Cup. Ottawa has won a Stanley Cup before but their last win was in 1927, long before the modern era.


The song this week is from the band Deer Tick and is titled Song About a Man



The quote this week is something I have had stored away in my file and I have no idea where I got it. But I like it.

If you had $86,400 in your account and someone stole $10 from you, would you be upset and throw the remaining amount $86,390 away at the person who took your $10? Of course not! The same way we have 86,400 seconds each day. Don’t let someone’s negative 10 seconds ruin the remaining 86,390 seconds of your day.


Thanks for dropping by and I hope to see you next week……………..




Week 20 & I Love To Write

I enjoy writing this blog. If no one dropped by, I would still do it but it’s far more enjoyable and rewarding to write when I know someone is reading it.

My weekly posts have now slowed down to every second week. Slowed is a misnomer.  I’m very busy and right now I’m not able to find the time to write on a weekly basis. I would like to but I am short on time every day.

We’ve been very busy at work this year, I’m very busy with other commitments after work and I am taking a course right now too. And I need an hour a day for the gym, for myself. I am hoping that soon I will be able to get back to once a week postings.

I love writing and could do it full time but I still have to send money to the bank every month for my home. I enjoy writing my blog and I am enjoying writing a couple of stories I am working on. I have always had a love for writing, prose, and poetry. It rivals my appreciation of music.

I quit school when I was 16 but I had already completed, with great marks, Grade 11 English.  I had a passion for English. My Grade 11 English teacher was an overweight and unusual character of a man named Mr. Loob. He wore clean pressed white shirts, short sleeves and a bow tie. Same thing every day. He too had a great appreciation for literature. He was like a cheerleader for books such as the Lord of the Flies and his enthusiasm pushed my love for literature even further. I’ll never forget Mr. Loob and how supportive and encouraging he was for all my work and projects. He was not only an interesting character he was a nice man. He’s one of the few school teachers who impacted my life.

But I left school at 16. I was bored and annoyed with school so I left. At 17 I was working on my first drilling rig, Westburne #17, outside of Grimshaw, Alberta. The rigs were a harsh place for a 17-year-old but I took to them quickly and I’ve been in that industry ever since. Through everything though I never lost my appreciation for literature.

I have taken some writing courses in the last 5 years. They’ve been in person at The Alexandra Writing Center in Calgary and some online course work. I have also taken courses from Athabasca University which is a distance, online University here in the province of Alberta. I’m applying those credits towards and English Degree but it’s likely I won’t pursue the degree again until I retire. I just can’t commit the time right now. I would have to take the time from somewhere else and I’m not prepared to do that.

I’m reading Stephen King’s book, “On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft”. My friend Liz L. lent it to me and I am about ¾ the way completed. It’s a slower read because it is some of Stephen King’s life but also it’s a great book about how to write!

So, I will get back to posting once a week I just don’t know when. I don’t want to create some disappointment in myself by not meeting a deadline today, that I can’t reach later.I’ll continue to concentrate on subject matter I know and enjoy and as Stephen King has said, I’m still trying to find my voice.


Just when I think I know something about hockey I look back a month at my playoff predictions and am reminded why I work in the drilling business. We’re down to 4 teams and it’s awesome hockey. Pittsburgh is playing Ottawa and the other division has Anaheim against Nashville. For the sake of hockey,small markets and unconventional hockey hotbeds everywhere I hope to see Nashville in the Stanley Cup Final. It’d be great for hockey everywhere. Enjoy the clip below where Nashville is becoming known as Smashville.


The song this week is from Willie Nelson from his new album, Gods Problem Child and its a song about his old buddy Merle Haggard who passed on , April 6 , 2016. The song’s called He Won’t Ever Be Gone.



The quote this week is from Father Richard Rohr.

“The human ego will always try to name, categorize, fix, control and ensure all its experiences. For the ego everything is a commodity. It lives inside of self-manufactured boundaries instead of inside the boundaries of the Godself. It lives out of its own superior image instead of mirroring the image of God. With the Western isolated self in a state of immense insecurity today, we are flailing about, searching for any solid identity.”


Thanks for dropping by and I hope you’ll do the same again next time I post………

Pain is the Touchstone and Week 45

Last weekend started with Remembrance Day, a holiday here in Alberta and it was a quiet weekend for us. We stayed in the neighborhood for the most part but did venture out Saturday for a movie and later a burger. It was nice to have a long weekend, without plans and not too busy to be able to enjoy some down time and get a few small things done. We’re going out this Friday for dinner, with another couple we know very well. We’ve decided to go to Bonterra Trattoria which I have been anxious to try since it received Avenue Magazine’s third place recognition for Calgary’s Best Restaurants and first place for Best Italian Food. I’ll let you know next week how it was but if I forget don’t be afraid to ask.

Moving along…..

I have a belief that everything we receive from our Higher Power, God or the Universe, is a gift or a lesson. Life is full of gifts and lessons. Most often our lessons come in packages we don’t want. And if we learn the lesson then we have been given a gift. Why do these gifts and lessons come in packages we usually don’t want? I suppose it’s because most of us are quite content when life is going smoothly and we do not make any attempt to change or grow when things are good. But when faced with physical and more so,emotional pain, we make the necessary changes or adaptations to cope with this pain. Or more importantly, to grow out of this pain. It is through and because of emotional pain that most of us will search for help or seek a way out. This is why I sought out 12 step recovery. It was recover or die. Those were my two choices. Believe it or not I actually had to think about what choice to make. My lessons brought me to recovery and my recovery has been a gift.

In AA’s book, Twelves Steps and Twelve Traditions, on page 93 it says:

“pain was the touchstone of all spiritual progress”

 I am certain that everyone reading this can identify with that statement. We have all had some “pain” in our life , for many it began far too young.I have been given many gifts and lessons in my life and I hope I am around for many more and continue to use them as a stepping stone to growth.I am not positive and I can’t unequivocally attribute the above quote to anyone. Bill Wilson, the co-founder of AA wrote it in Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions and he was talking about someone other than himself, I think. I believe that someone else to be his sponsor, Father Ed Dowling but I can’t be sure. Regardless the point is well made and proven many times over. Until the pain of where we are is greater than the pain of change, all will remain the same. So as much as we have a disdain for pain, emotional pain, it still remains one of the greatest motivators for growth and more specifically spiritual growth. I hate emotional pain or turmoil but I have been around long enough to know that I will come out the other side a better person.I am responsible for my own growth. I must use the lesson and turn it into a gift.


 “The next time you are face with something unexpected, unwanted and uncertain, consider that it just may be a gift”—-Stacey Kramer from the following video.




My daughter Emma has been telling me about a great movie coming out to theaters soon and she sent me this link from the trailer for the movie. It’s a true story and the movie is called “Loving”


The quote this week is :

“But pain’s like water. It finds a way to push through any seal. There’s no way to stop it. Sometimes you have to let yourself sink inside of it before you can learn how to swim to the surface.”
 Katie Ray Kacvinsky, author


Leonard Cohen ( 1934-2016)


This past week we lost a great singer, songwriter, poet and person. Leonard Cohen was a great Canadian know around the world. I think everyone knows who Leonard Cohen is and just about everyone has heard a Leonard Cohen song. My friends know that I have a love if not a passion for music and the last time I felt so affected by the death of a musician it was John Lennon’s death. Now that I have had so much more living and have a much greater appreciation for life, than I did in 1980 when Lennon died, Cohen’s death has been a little more distressing to me. I was very fortunate to see Leonard Cohen in November 2012, here in Calgary at the Saddledome. I sat and listened and enjoyed and it was over far too soon. He said he would be back. It was fabulous night. It’s very sad to think I wont see him play live again. I recommend his books Stranger Music 1993 or Book of Longing 2006. He also released a new album this year . I will miss him very much as I know many of you will be. George Harrison sang “All Things Must Pass” and so they shall. The video below is one of my favorite Cohen songs; enjoy.






Well thanks for drooping by as I appreciate you take the time to read this……have a great week and I hope I’ll see you next week..




Recovery,Friends and Week 44

The past weekend was awesome and for me it actually started on Thursday night. I used up a couple of vacation days and took Friday and Monday off too. Since I post my blog on Thursday’s my week in review begins there.

Thursday night, 7 of us like minded men went for supper at The Keg Steakhouse as a small going away gathering for my good friend Kevin H. I believe Kevin is the first friend in my life to move to Regina, Saskatchewan. People usually come from Regina , not go to Regina.

All joking aside we all wish Kevin the best in his new endeavors and we know that Regina is receiving one of Calgary’s best. He’ll do great out there if he survives his first winter.

We had a great time at The Keg laughing, telling tales and some great “war stories”. We’ll have to do this again; maybe in January.


On Friday I went to Bragg Creek to a Big Book workshop/study retreat. This is the name we use for the book we use in the 12 step program I belong to.We affectionately call it The Big Book.  I went to Bragg Creek with a couple of good friends, Ryan and Jeremy. The retreat was at Camp Horizon. I have driven past this camp so many times I wouldn’t be able to count but this is the first time I drove into the facilities. It was well run with brand new sleeping quarters, mixed in with the old and a large hall where we would study the book and also take our meals. They had 90 participants which was their cut-off for the maximum number of people they wanted. The study was led by Scott from Nashville and John from Delaware. Terrific guys with a strong and unique grasp of the book. When I say unique I must stress there isn’t a lot of room for individual interpretation of the book but the way they were able to get points across or stress passages, was the unique part. Like I said these were 2 really good guys. I’m glad I had the opportunity to get to know them over the weekend and I plan on staying in touch. The retreat began at 430 pm on Friday and ended Sunday morning at about 1030 am. We were very well looked after by the staff at Camp Horizon and I was over fed at every meal.

I learned a lot on the weekend. I was able to pick up a great deal of information from the Big Book and I was able to learn a lot about myself.As perspective and spiritual life change  in me with time,so does what I see in the Big Book change. It’s a change of perspective so it seems that every-time I am in a study I learn  new things. In studying the book, I realized how much I still have to learn. How much more authentic I can be with others. And how much more honest and hard I must be on myself. It’s probably been 8 years since I was in a Big Book study and I was starting to think I knew the book so well I didn’t need a study. How wrong I was. I have a lot to learn and I have a lot I want to learn. About the book, about myself and about others that I work this program with. I left with a fresh outlook on the program and energized to do more work, for myself mostly. I have started a step 4. This will be my 12th step 14 in 23 years. I am positive, barring some unforeseen circumstance, that I will be back at this retreat again next year. It was glaringly obvious to me how much I need it and how much I want it.

Step 4. Made a searching and moral inventory of ourselves. In the first full paragraph from page 64 it states:

“Therefore , we started upon a personal inventory. This was Step Four. A business which takes no regular inventory usually goes broke.Taking a commercial inventory is a fact-finding and a fact-facing process. It is an effort to discover ther truth about the stock in trade. One object is to disclose damaged and unsalable goods,to get rid of them promptly and without regret.If the owner of the business is to be successful, he cannot fool himself about values”

So,we are going to conduct the equivalent of a commercial inventory of our lives. We are going to discover what blocks us from the Sunlight of the Spirit.

In the next paragraph, the authors tell us exactly what we have to do to conduct a Fourth Step inventory:

“we did exactly the same thing with our lives. We took stock honestly. First, we searched out the flaws in our make-up which caused failure. Being convinced that self, manifested in various ways, was what had defeated us, we considered its common manifestations”

Time for another Step 4.



Tomorrow is Remembrance Day in Canada.

On remembrance day members of the armed forces (soldiers, sailors and airmen) are commemorated. The other common name for this day is Armistice Day which marks the date and time when armies stopped fighting World War I. on November 11th at 11am in 1918 (the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month). Many people wear artificial poppies on their clothes in the weeks before Remembrance Day. Red poppies symbolize the memory of those who died and white poppies campaigns for non-military interventions in conflict situations.




In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.


written during the First World War by Canadian Physician Lieutenant- Colonel John McCrae   



My Father,Martin Burke Cullen , in World War 2



The quote this week is:

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy, is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God.”

Anne Frank, Diary of a Young Girl

The song this week is Tears, Tears, Tears by Gregg Allman


Gregg Allman



Thanks for dropping by and I hope you’ll be back next week………….

Week 19

The fires in Fort McMurray have been the focal point for most of us in Alberta this past week. I think that by now everyone in the world has heard about the city of Fort McMurray in the news.


Most of us in the Energy Industry know someone who lives or works in Ft. Mac that has been affected by the fires and the evacuation of up to 90,000 people. There has been so much damage and devastation. I can’t imagine what goes through the hearts and minds of those who have lost every possession including photographs and mementos. People from all across Canada have reached out to help and Albertan’s have pulled together, once again, to help a community in dire need. I won’t reiterate the news. If you want to see more pictures, video or stories you can Google the fires. The flames are still raging but have moved away from the city of Fort Mac and the state of the city is being evaluated. My gratitude goes out to all first responders who fought and/or are fighting this fight. Some of them while their own homes were burning. Alberta Strong is what I keep seeing on social media and this province is strong. I’m very proud to be able to call myself an Albertan!


The kids were all over last Saturday for a nice evening on the deck in 27 C weather, along with my mother in law and father in law. We were celebrating my birthday, Mother’s Day and my daughter Olivia’s birthday which actually is on May 15th ! Happy Birthday ‘Liv!!


The NHL playoffs continue. One game is left in round two. The San Jose Sharks will play the Nashville Predators in a decisive game 7 and the winner will play the St Louis Blues in the Western Conference Final. The Eastern Conference Final will see the Pittsburgh Penguins play the Tampa Bay Lightning. I think the Eastern final is going to be a game of speed and I’m looking forward to it! I have no dog in the fight so It doesn’t matter to me who wins.But St Louis has never won the Stanley Cup so I think that could be good for the game if they did.


I am replacing the quote this week with a poem. A poem by Rudyard Kipling. I found this poem about a decade ago and it has become one of my favorites.



By Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!



The song this week is from the Noisettes and is called The Count of Monte Christo


I hope you’ll drop by next week…………