Thursday, January 31, 2013

One week on..

I'm not sure what the weather has been like in your neck of the world, but here in Southwestern Ontario (100 miles west of Toronto), it's be absolutely bizarre. Last week we hit lows of -15C (5F) with a windchill below 0F to an anticipated high of 12C (53.6F) today and an anticipated 14C (57.2F) tomorrow.

Why the weather bulletin, well it has to do with my Trigeminal. I've noted over time the impact the weather seems to have on the effects of my condition. When I used to share this with others, it was hard for them to understand. It's appears that many others suffer from the same irritations, as you can see from the sample posts of other sufferers on DailyStrength's TN group.

Effects of weather on Trigeminal, Causes of facial pain,
Source: Disney from Google
Recent posts from TN group:

Here we go again! The changes of season that I use to Love is now painful. The change in temp or rain is killing me. by: BostonTN

Icy wind is my most consistent trigger, and caused my last attack. I take huge precautions against getting blasted on the side of the face, but have gotten hit there anyway on occasion. Have you noticed a specific pattern with allergies? Some people's attacks seem to correlate pretty nicely with the sharp allergen increases that happen during seasonal changes. by: Jady

A while back, I was given an opportunity to travel to Palo Alto, CA and meet with three incredibly talented specialists at Stanford's Medical Center. I was there to see about participating in a limited trial to find out if an already approved drug could be re-purposed to help in pain management. Unfortunately, the new application did not work quite so well for me, though I did learn a real valuable lesson. You see, it was the very first time that I was encouraged, in fact instructed to monitor and record my pain cycles. What I learned was that the pain is typically always there just in varying degrees (we measure on a scale of 1 - 10) and,  that in knowing comes the opportunity to manage the pain. It also means that I've become a more typical Canadian, paying much more attention to weather forecasts.

So a week on and the weather is playing havoc. I'm keeping positive and focusing on the tasks at hand. Thankfully, Joan is a great calming, caring and empathetic presence in the evenings when I'm not as active as I'd like to be.  Here's a post that can sum up our feelings at times, I post this as I hunker down to stay out of the swirling 55km winds and dropping temperatures outside.

I keep hearing people talk about how much they love the change of seasons and the fresh, crisp air - if only they knew. I used to like it as well, but now it just means more pain and less time outdoors. Honeycrisp apples are available this time of year and they are my favorite. I have to be careful because biting into one and having the sweet, tart juices in my mouth (and chewing) can trigger the pain... Ugh - by: LadyBug.

I'm not usually someone that spends a great deal of time in support groups, but I feel a real affinity for these folks across North America that are sharing their experiences, best practices and understanding.

What is nice about working in 2013 vs when I was first diagnosed is technology. I can still work fairly effectively and when I can't get out (usually doesn't stop me), I can now have a Skype call or Google hangout to advance those in person meetings that are so necessary in business.

Thanks for listening and look forward to staying in touch.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The condition my condition is in...

I thought the best place to restart my blog was with a little personal insight about myself.

I've been told on numerous occasions to get my head examined, and in 1996, it became apparent I really needed to. On a blustery day in late fall, I stepped off a streetcar in midtown Toronto, heading home from a very rewarding day of work.  Though the wind was up, to that point it had been a great day and I was looking forward to a relaxing evening at home. As I stepped off the car, I felt a sudden shock on the left-side of my face. I initially thought I'd been hit by a stone/bullet, who knew. There was no blood or anything to show any physical issue, other than the excruciating pain and the fact that my eye was now closing.

I made it home and the odyssey began. I'll keep this part short, after months (in fact 18 of them) and five trips to different ear, nose and throat specialists, I was introduced to a very compassionate and caring neurologist in Toronto who diagnosed my condition as Trigeminal neualgia (Great breakdown from the U.S. National Library of Medicine Trigeminal Neuralgia explained). Essentially the way I normally explain it, the protective coating on the facial nerve (much like an electrical wire) has been stripped and the live nerve (wire) is exposed and easily triggered. The pain that occurs is hard to describe and unless it's completely shut down my eye and I'm unable to speak briefly, hard for others to see. The condition comes and goes and can occasionally be controlled by medication that make me feel very dopey (I avoid taking it whenever possible).

Chronic Pain, Facial pain, Tic douloureux
Source: Wikipedia Commons
      I've had my condition for so long, that I've actually learned for the most part to manage the pain via meditation, relaxation techniques, being as busy as possible and more. In 2011, with Joan's blessing and Spencer's great concern, I visited a neurological surgeon in London to discuss the option of having surgery. The verdict is still out on the overall effectiveness of long term relief, and we're still looking at this option. The major downside is the absolute fear Spencer has (unfounded, but he is only 10) and the amount of recovery time (the surgeon said up to 12 weeks at home).

But to get back to the purpose of this post; since December 2012 the pain has increased significantly again. This is not unusual as it can ebb and flow when it strikes, but this recent bout seems more pronounced. It's most aggressive when it first returns, and I'm out of training in managing it. I'll be rescheduling another appointment with the surgeon and revisit the options. The medication I'm taking is less effective today than it was initially and frankly, I'd rather manage the pain and be lucid than not.

So to the purpose, I'm going to use this form to track the progress and share with you our family's journey. In addition, I'm asking for your assistance. Part of my pain management program is trying as hard as possible to control how I relate to others. I've found that when battling the issue, I can lose patience much faster than normal. If you catch me feeling sorry for myself or being rude, please kick my butt. It's a fine line for me occasionally as I can be a passionate defender of my beliefs ;). Spencer is really good at keeping me grounded. They say that what can't kill you, only makes your stronger. This definitely can't kill me, but it is very annoying at times.

Thanks for listening and for understanding. Have a great week - I plan on it. :)

I'll be starting a new blog as well focusing on business, social media, customer relationship management and more. That blog will be written twice weekly and the first edition will be out in February 2013.


With props to Kenny Rogers and the First edition:

Friday, July 27, 2012

Email Marketing What you need to know

Email Marketing - What you need to know.

This is a great info-graphic (What is Email Marketing, created by Arjan De Raaf, posted June 30, 2012) that has been passed around and pinned/re-pinned on Pinterest recently. Email marketing is a common tactic, though often done poorly.  

Used effectively, email marketing will keep your customers and prospect engaged and informed. Like all other forms of engagement, to be effective, it is most important to start you email marketing program with a strategy.  

Because of the transition from outbound (broadcast) to inbound (search) marketing, having an effective email program that utilizes opt-in permissions is a must, especially for small and medium size business.  The concern I hear most is the investment. We just discussed this at our local networking group and really, the investment in time to set up the program, segment your email lists, recognize what gaps exist and put a plan in place to effectively communicate with all the various groups is an investment in time that will constantly reward you down the road. 

The numbers in the info-graphic back up the need; 74% of commercial users, prefer email for their communication needs, 58% of consumers check email first thing in the morning (are these reflective of you, be honest, your the only one looking). According to the Direct Marketing Association (US), the return on investment for email marketing in 2011 was $40.56. This is far superior to most marketing efforts. To achieve these numbers, your email needs to be attractive and relevant. By relevancy, we mean that your email has meaning or value for your audience.  

The key is your plan. Understand who your audience is, what you are trying to achieve with your email program (lead generation, awareness, customer service, new product education, etc) and how do you want to make your email attractive (compel the reader to take action).  With your plan in place, your email audience will know what they are going to get from you and how easy it will be to engage.

Hope this helps. I've included some other resources that you might find of value. 


Additional Resources:

Email Marketing Power - A blog I wrote for TDG Marketing Inc.

Email Recommended Best Practices - Industry Canada's Email Marketing Best Practices (Reduce Spam)

Creating a Good Email Marketing Strategy - Ed Henrich published in ClickZ

Email Marketing Services Comparison - Published by Top Ten Reviews - I've included this as a reference only and encourage you to do your own research to find the system that best suits your needs and desires. Please utilize your networks to find out experiences from your trusted sources.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Encouraging Creativity - Spencer and Pinterest

I work for a full service marketing and advertising firm located in Brantford, Ontario.  I also have a wonderful son, who within a few weeks will be turning 10.  Ever since Spencer's be able to walk, he's been included in my work endeavors.  He learned social responsibility and acceptance of others while I worked to raise funds for a local charity as the development officer.  He took part in volunteer activities, in fact for the last three years, he's had more fun setting up Easter Egg hunts for other children, than hunting himself.

Since returning to the pure marketing world, Spencer has become ever more interested in video production, web and graphic design.  When we were looking at adding a "Fun Friday" post to our social media efforts, Spence really wanted to pitch in.  

Spencer created the scenario and with a little guidance, decided on the topic for discussion.  As he's only 10 and we weren't sure if we'd be allowed to actually use the materials corporately, Spencer decided to use some of his stuffed animals as his actors (they work real inexpensively).  Unfortunately, for the viewing audience, he drafted me to be the other participant and after much coaxing (okay none really) Joan stepped in to act as our director and videographer.

The topic was the latest social media trend - Pinterest. Spencer had heard of it but really didn't know what it was all about.  He enlisted Pollie Bear as his interviewer and Pierre Panda to be his guest social media presenter.  Pollie's job was to get Pierre to share with the viewers, what the viewers needed to know about Pinterest and why they should get involved.  After seven takes, we had something that Spencer was happy with (besides his curfew was fast approaching for bedtime).  

We won't subject you to that, but instead would like to share a couple from our "blooper" file.  As a father, the best part was playing with the family, as a listener, the best part is Spencer's laugh - one of the world's greatest sounds.

This is blooper number 6 and we've entitled it "Fallen".

Blooper number 2 "Audience" 

Hope you enjoy and thanks for obliging. 


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Favourite Homemade Soups

We've been doing more planning and home cooking of late, especially given that we are working with a personal trainer.  The cookbook above, has been a standard for me for many years and was the inspiration for our last two batches. Both made with loving care and our sous chef, Spencer (good to get the nine year old in the kitchen).

Unfortunately, the world lost Ken last year in April, but his many recipes live on.  Since I've been asked to share the recipes for both the "True Potato Soup with Parmesan" and "Mulligatawny" lately, I've decided to post them here.  The recipes are from the book above and I have a tendency to tweak the spices. If you are a fan of soups, should be a stable in your library.

Mulligatawny (Serves 8) p.138

2 Tbsp olive oil                                       1/2 cup rice
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts          1 tbsp curry powder
2 stalks celery, chopped                           1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 small red onion, chopped                       1/2 tsp dried basil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped                   1/2 tsp salt
2 apples, peeled, cored and chopped          1/2 tsp white pepper
1 red bell pepper                                     1 bay leaf
1 tsp grated fresh ginger                          6 cups chicken stock (low sodium)
1 cup apple juice                                     1 cup half/half table cream

In a large soup pot, heat the oil.  Add the chicken breasts and cook until no longer pink.  Remove pot from heat.  Cube the chicken and set aside.  Return the pot to the heat; add celery, onion and garlic and sauté for three minutes. Add the apples, red pepper and ginger; sauté another 2 minutes.  Add the cooked chicken, rice, curry powder, cinnamon, basil, salt, white pepper and bay leaf, stock and apple juice.  Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.  Stir in cream and simmer another 5 minutes or until heated through.  Remove the bay leaf before serving and enjoy!

(Note - this is especially good reheated the next day or the longer you allow the spices to blend).

True Potato Soup with Parmesan (Serves 4 - 6) P. 32

2 tbsp olive oil                                 1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped                     5 potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 cups vegetable stock                       1/2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme                           1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper                          1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley             1/2 cup sour cream (optional)*

In a large soup pot, heat the oil.  Add the onion and garlic; sauté for 2 minutes or until the onion is translucent.  Add the potatoes; sauté, stirring  to keep the potatoes from sticking to the bottom.  Add the stock, basil, thyme, salt and pepper; simmer 15 minutes.  Using a hand blender, puree the soup.  Stir in the Parmesan and parsley.  Place a tablespoon of sour cream (*we use plain yogurt) on each serving.  Serve immediately.

I've truly enjoyed experimenting with the recipes in this book and I hope you and your family enjoy it as well.


Source: Ken's Soup Crazy, Penguin Canada 2000 

Friday, February 24, 2012

Getting Out

Top of the Bruce Trail, Excursion with Treks in the Wild - Pretty River Provincial Park, Collingwood ON(From left to right, Greg, Katie, Val, Joan and I)

Joan and I had the great pleasure of exploring the Collingwood ON area via snowshoe this past long weekend to celebrate Family Day in Ontario. 

The trip was organized by Treks In the Wild, out of Brantford Ontario and we met Andy Tonkin and the other adventurers at 9:45am in Collingwood.  

The transition from green and barren ground to a winter wonderland was unbelievable.  About 10km from town not only did the landscape become increasingly rugged, the traffic increasing congested, it was as white as a newly opened bag of cotton batten.  

After meeting Greg, Katie, Val, and Andy, we headed off to Pretty River Provincial Park to start our hike.  For the first time in years, I was knee deep in powder and it was a real joy.  We went on and off trail and climbed to the top of the Bruce Trail (picture above).  Unfortunately with all the snow and a weather system coming in, we didn't get to enjoy the vistas, but we were able to enjoy each others company and the pleasure of being outdoors and active.

After a great meal at Collingwood's hidden jewel of a country store/restaurant Ravenna Country Market, just outside of Blue Mountain (the soup alone is worth the trip) we met up with 2 new friends Tara and Ajeeth and headed back out to Loree Forest.  The trail here is flatter and takes you to the lift at Georgian Peaks Ski Resort.  The view from the top of the hill, looking down over Georgian Bay is stunning.  

We enjoyed another 2 hours of snowshoeing before heading back home.  We paid for it the next day but the adventure and fun was worth it.  If you get the chance, being active and outdoors, no matter the weather is one of life's best experiences.

Find what you'd like to do and get out there!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Holidays to all

In our family we celebrate Christmas.   As a Canadian, one of our great opportunities is to share in many of the ethnic customs and traditions that are apart of this time of year.  The joys of learning about Hanukkah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa and how Christians around the world celebrate Christmas has been eye opening, fun and joyful.  As our thoughts turn to our loved ones, the Christmas spirit only supports how much more similar we are than different, as peoples.  

One of our traditions is my favourite piece of Christmas music.  It dates back to 1977, David Bowie and Bing Crosby's "Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth."  What is amazing for me is the blending of these wonderful voices and that the piece that David Bowie is singing was written on the spot - together it brings a powerful message and hope for the future for us all. 

From our family to yours, all the very best of the season, no matter how you celebrate. 


Gordon, Joan, Spencer and our puppies; Buddy and Lucy too!

Geseende Kersfees; Milad Majid; Feliz Natal; Feliz Navidad; Glaedelig Jul; Zalig Kerstfeast; Mele Kalikimaka; Ojenyunyat Sungwiyadeson honungradon nagwutut. Ojenyunyat osrasay; Wesolych Swait, Bozego Narodzenia and Merry Christmas.  Greetings courtesy of: