The short piece I wrote about cancer on my fundraising page spoke of the dark side of the disease. It spoke of struggling and fighting, yet there is another side to be seen, a side which was shown to me through my Hair Donation Ottawa experience. It is a side of resilience, of hope, of support, and of strength.
When I first registered to participate in the event, I had no idea how much I could raise or how I could raise it; these worries were to be short lived. I setup my fundraising page, the words explaining why I was participating coming easily. I was doing this because I am tired of sitting on the sidelines, tired of watching people face the fight of their lives, while being only able to sit idly by.
I have my own list in my head, which I run through whenever cancer is brought up, as I am sure you do as well. It is a list of people close to me who have fought this beast, some making it, others not, yet each standing strong. It is a list which grows every year and we must do all we can to stop it.
One of the first things to strike me on this journey, was just how many people have been touched by cancer, each quick with a personal tale and support for the cause. My fundraising goals were easily attained, an early sign of the solidarity I would see, each person wanting to help, to contribute in any way they could.
As my wife and I made our way to the event space, we were impressed by the number of freshly cut, smiling faces passing us in the halls. The energy grew the closer we got to the AC Salon and we couldn’t help but smile from ear-to-ear by the time we walked into the crowded room. We were quickly greeted and handed a small card of instructions, each step corresponding to a large, floating, golden number. These balloons were tied to tables that were intermixed with other tables full of information, activities, and smiling volunteers.
The room was electric, full of happy faces milling about sharing their stories and taking photos, even Champ managed to make it out for a haircut and never stopped dancing. Before going into the chair, I had an opportunity to meet and thank Helene Hutchings, the CEO of Hair Donation Ottawa, just as she was about to make announcements and welcome a wonderful a cappella choir. The songs of the choir filled the room as my wife and I were taken into the salon to start the head shave.
We entered the AC Salon to find an organized chaos. People laughed and shared stories over the snick of scissors and buzz of clippers wielded by professional stylist volunteers. It made for an infectious atmosphere, instantly making you feel light on your feet. We were introduced to Eli from Silver Scissors and my wife began the live stream. Eli did a fast and wonderful job on my hair, all the while keeping the live feed fun and entertaining. He informed me that many women and girls were leaving the salon just as bald as I was. I also learned that you do not have to shave your head, you can donate as little as 6 inches, so you can go in for a trim and a style, all while helping a great cause.
After the shave, I was lead away to have my head rinsed by one of the AC Salon volunteers, who informed me that the hair which could not be used to make wigs, would be used to help clean oil spills. Everything which could be used, was being used. The money raised, to fund research, donated hair, to make wigs that relight smiles and help save our oceans. Thinking of how well thought-out everything was and the energy you get from helping others, was what made my smile in the after photo.
I was able to speak with Helene again and take a quick photo, promising my help for next year, before my wife and I picked up my certificate and made our way home to rest. We were each inspired and were discussing ideas on what we could do next year to raise even more funds.
Everyone we met at the event were amazingly gracious and hospitable, making each participant feel like they were the star of the show. We both left feeling connected and grounded, feeling a part of something much bigger than us. This event shows us, that when we are threatened, we can put our differences behind us to unite as one people to fight a common enemy.
I feel very privileged to have been a part of this event and am left in awe at all the hard work our doctors and scientists are doing to make cancer a thing of the past. I hope in time, we will not need cancer fundraisers, or fundraisers for any disease, but until that day, we must stay united and stand strong, to do everything we can.
This will be a yearly event for me, though next year my hair will be long enough to donate. I ask that you please consider joining me next year to see if we can help beat the $108, 000.00 raised this year! Thank you to everyone who participated, donated, and volunteered.
To everyone doing all they can to find a cure, thank you and to all of you battling, stay strong. Once a survivor, forever a warrior.
Taking the Fight to CancerRead Now
We tell ourselves and our children that monsters do not exist. We whisper these words aloud to the darkness, hugging each other close, hoping they may come true if spoken. Too often, we believe that heroes and heroines are just things of legend and stories, meant to keep an overactive mind occupied. That is until the day cancer enters our lives. On that day, everything we thought we knew about life is turned on its head. Suddenly the monster lurking in the shadows is no longer a whispered threat, chased away by light. The monster is very real, as is the battle that must be waged. Whether it is you or someone you know, we see the heroes and heroines of lore seemingly jump from the pages and into reality as they take the fight to this dreaded disease. These brave men and women, boys and girls, stand in the face of pain and adversity every day. They push when they have no strength to give and fight with the courage of warrior to stand their ground and force this monster back into the shadows. They whisper, “not today” through gritted teeth as they stand strong and endure. They are flanked by doctors, nurses, and scientists, all working around the clock to come up with the best weapons, strongest defenses, and to give never ending support.
Families stand by, watching helplessly as their loved ones fight daily. They offer support and strength, trying not to show their own hurt and tears, trying to not add to the strain. Guilt tries to slip its way into their thoughts, trying to weaken them. Guilt over being healthy, guilt over being impotent in the face of such an adversary, guilt at feeling guilty when they are not the one in the battle. Yet this is all a part of the struggle, cancer finds a way to tear small pieces from the hearts of each and every person it touches or even brushes past. This monster does not care about your status, your gender, or even your age, making it all the uglier. While we may not be able to fight the battle being raged by our loved ones, and those around us affected by cancer, for them, we can continue to stand in their corner and give all the love, support, and understanding that we have. We can wipe the sweat from their brow, offer words of encouragement, and work to help find a cure. Each year, research finds new ways to attack this formidable enemy, to weaken it, to drive it back. Let’s do what we can to help fund the research, so that cancer may be defeated once and for all. Together, there is nothing we can’t do.
I have pledged to shave my head in order to raise money for cancer research. Please follow the link below and help me in a great cause. I will be posting updates on social media and my website. Thank you very much for your time and your support.
Giving BackRead Now
With the holidays upon us, I find myself thinking of ways we can all give back, even if just a little. Each year we hear of great ways to help; donate to charities, buy a gift for a child in need, give to people around the globe, volunteer at a soup kitchen, the list goes on and on.
While these are all great ideas, it can be difficult to come up with the resources to do so. Far too often we lack the time or the finances, this is a very costly time of year. Which is why I wanted to come up with ways we could all do a little more, without stretching ourselves any thinner. Here are a few of the ideas I came up with.
1. When buying gifts for everyone on your list, consider spending between $2 - $5 less on each person. They won’t notice the difference and the amount you save can then be donated or used to buy toys for children in need.
2. We all love this time of year for the food, but there are those among us who cannot afford to eat. Most of us sit down to a table with a full spread, would we really notice if one dish were to be removed? The idea being that we each take one dish off our table and donate the ingredients we would have bought for it to the food bank. We won’t notice if our dinner is missing carrots this year, but a family in need will certainly notice them being added to theirs.
3. Start a new family tradition to help someone in your neighborhood in December. Whether it is shovelling snow or just helping to carry the bags in, a small act can make a huge difference.
These are just a few ideas that came to me and will be acted upon this year. I am certain you all have many more thoughts. Please add your own ideas and share this post. Let’s see how many ways we can think of to brighten someone’s holidays.
We are living in a unique period. Never before in the history of the human race have we had such unfettered access to current events, news, and tragedies from around the world. We can see, in real time, what is befalling our fellow humans, yet we still rely on the misrepresentations of a very biased news system. When I say that it is biased, it is not wholly the fault of the news systems; it is also due to how we have allowed our news broadcasting to be formatted. Our entire societal structure focuses on ratings, views, and the profits that come along with them.
When your entire system and pay structure designed around ratings, there is no other option than to begin sensationalizing and speculating wildly; anything you can do to generate viewership, to be the #1 newscast. The point remains that no matter which method you use to attain your news, you have unprecedented access to it, in most of the world. In addition to that, we also have never had as much ease in our history of research. We can go back and look at our past from many different angles, many different points of view. The adage of history is writ by the winners is not relevant anymore. Today both sides can put up their versions with considerable ease. This whole system is at once beautiful and terrifying.
It is beautiful in that it gives us the opportunity to see our past mistakes, our previous flawed thinking, and make sure that we do not make the follies of our ancestors. It is terrifying because we are either not paying attention or perverting it to our use. When we come to a pivotal point in our history today, we can look back and see how it was handled before, right the wrongs and move forward; so why don’t we?
We still allow ourselves to be led astray by the same old arguments which we know to be false. We have been led to criminalize our sick, shun our criminals, and distrust our neighbour. When did a human living on the street become acceptable? When did we, how did we come to the point of not helping a fellow human in need because they are crazy, alcoholics, drug addicts, or they must have done something to end up there? When did we, as a society, decide it is easier and more profitable to jail the sick than to take care of them? When did our fellow human stop being our problem? When did money and prestige become king? We forget that everybody wants to be king, but few can bear the weight of the crown, and power can corrupt.
We can look at our past and see the horrific consequences of xenophobia, of protectionist ideas. Each time there is economic or world unrest some politicians will attempt to use the confusion to their advantage. They will try to blame the country’s problems on immigrants, a race of people, or a class of people, in an attempt to gain power. When they can shift the attention of the populace to outside (or inside) forces, a common bond forms within the people. They now have a face to their woes, deserved or not. The political leaders can then use this straw man to incite fear and attack the most primal insecurities of the mass. This strategy makes it very easy to ensure the populace is distracted, and the politician rides into power on a wave of emotion.
A prevailing thought of an example of this is post-WW1 Germany. The country was in a time of financial distress, and it was embarrassed on the world stage, which is why a man capable of reading a crowd was able to place all of the German problems on to the shoulders of the Jewish population, with unimaginable consequences. This cycle has been repeated numerous times throughout history with varying degrees of brutality. Another example is that of the Jim Crow era in the U.S.A. Politicians in America ran on the promise of being tough on crime and then criminalized an already very distressed and marginalized faction of American society, the African-Americans. The African-Americans were the new face of all of America’s problems; doling out stiffer punishments, stricter laws, and mass incarcerations allowed the American people to have a face to their issues and see them resolved. This practice still goes on today.
This system of divide and conquer is still being used on a grand scale, while we sit back and watch it happen. Britain has left the EU and are ushering in sweeping changes to the way the country deals with the world, effectively shutting their borders. These actions have caused an uptick in xenophobia and hate crimes in the country. The politicians used immigrants as the straw man, the root of all the problems, and now they are being forced out. People, Polish residents for example, in some English towns and cities are seeing a rise in violent hate attacks, as well as threats. These acts are very unbecoming of what is usually such a civilized nation, yet shows how fear and hysteria can sway a country.
These tactics can once again be seen clearly in the 2016 American Presidential Elections. Where we once celebrated as a world over the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the words Global Community were on everyone’s lips, we are now once again standing in the face of division. There is a candidate whom would like to see a wall constructed, who has openly stated that Globalism does not work and that their focus is on Americanism. This candidate is dividing the people like a rake through the sand and is once again using the two very familiar, and dusty straw men crime and immigration to do so.
The candidate is swinging these straw men around with such vigour, the American populace is too busy ducking to focus on what is happening, once again using fear and threats to divide and conquer the people. This behaviour is hazardous and has a very high probability of ending poorly, as has been seen time and time again in our very easily accessed histories.
If we can look back and see that heartache and despair are the only things that will be waiting for us at the end of the tunnel, why do we keep leading ourselves here? Why do we allow ourselves to be made to look upon our fellow humans with distrust? Why do we let ourselves to be divided? Why do we allow ourselves to be led astray by our ingrained morals and good nature?
The interesting thing about major historical events is how ordinary they feel when they are happening. We then look at them retrospectively and gnash our teeth and tear our clothes over how such horrible deeds could have been committed. We question how people could idly sit back and allow these awful things to happen. Surely someone must have stepped forward, surely more could have been done! Why wasn’t more done? Surely if this should happen again, we will do better!
We don’t, we never do, and we aren’t now. Is it because money and power have corrupted us or is it because we just stopped caring? Have all the loud voices effectively been silenced or suitably devalued? What do we need to do to have the views of the just and good heard over the raucous noise of fear mongers and power chasers? Look around you, and you will see history being repeated again and again like some hellish hall of mirrors, each one more cracked and distorted than the one before.
We are currently living in a critical time in the history of the world. This time is one that will be looked back upon by future generations with shock and dismay. The war crimes and humanitarian crises that are happening all over the Middle East, the violence in the streets of America, the closing of borders by countries, and the inexorable march of the war machine threatening global security, are all things that future generations will look back to us and ask why didn’t you do more? Why didn’t you stop this? Why didn’t you save more lives? Why did the world wake up and step in too late, again?
When we ask past generations, they, to a certain degree, can claim ignorance. It was much tougher for them to access world news and do their research, not only do we not have that excuse, we have the ability to learn from our well-documented past; we have no reason. As I lay awake at night trying to find sleep, I often wonder how we will be able to explain ourselves. When will we start to treat our fellow humans around the world the way they deserve to be addressed, with dignity and respect?
When will we stop allowing our differences to divide us and start using them to help each other? We are all one species and need to start acting like it.
“What is your favorite season and why?”
This is one of the questions that invariably pops up in life from time to time, some have a quick response, while others are left fumbling, casting about in their mind for an answer. For myself and many other people, the answer is the fall, but again, why? I believe it is because the fall is the only magical season. It is the warm, elderly relative of seasons, and it is the season with the strongest scent. Which, I think, is one of the main keys.
Many a poet, writer, and lyricist have likened the seasons to mankind and I am about to add my voice to the chorus. In my mind’s eye spring reflects our birth and our childhood. It is the time of fresh flowers, life, play, and new beginnings; everything is hopeful and full of promise.
The summer is the teens and early adulthood of our lives. The time of drinks, frivolity, and figuring out who we are. This is the time of testing out new romance and making future plans. Near the end of summer, we all become a bit more serious. A new sense of somberness fills the cooling nights.
Autumn or Fall shows us the golden years of our lives. Homes are filled with the scents of stews and hearty meals. Children run around playing, wrapped in the warm hug of sweaters, while the cool air begins to sharpen its teeth with gentle nips on their ears and noses. Families join together to walk and take in the multitude of colours before going home to sit in the in the dusty smelling warmth of houses heating after a long slumber.
The fall leads to winter, which gives us glimpses of our futures. Life is cold, slow, and more difficult. Everything is bleak and a seemingly full of despair, yet people wander around warming themselves on the small flame of the promise of a new spring. The cycle then continues, this time however, with more new life and fewer old souls, having lost those who could not suffer the bite of winter and finally succumbed.
Yet through all of this wondrous cycle, for me, it is the fall. It always has been and always will be. To me, fall is life. As I stated previously, I think it all harkens back to scent, fall has the strongest scent. Actually, science has shown us that scent is magic, which is why I say that the fall is magical. Science has discovered that scent bypasses the “rational” thinking centre of the brain and heads straight to the emotional core. As we all know, emotions do not always allow us to make the clearest of decisions.
A good number of my happiest memories occurred in the fall and are locked close to my heart due to the aromas in the air at the time. Fall is the smell of spices, the itchiness of sweaters, and the sweet smell of decaying leaves that rustle like cheering fans as my feet push through them. It is the smell of wood fires floating through the neighborhood, the burning of dust in the heaters, and the smell of hearty, soul warming food.
The fall clothing also adds a touch of magic to the season. After a season of heat and sweat, we can now enjoy the cool air and wrap ourselves in the warm comfort of fall fashions. Woolly socks, giant sweaters, and jogging pants embrace us, while we curl up under a blanket with a good story and a hot drink.
No matter what is going on in my life, a whiff of a cool, crisp fall day, will always bring me back to a happy place. I sincerely hope that you each may find your own season and bask in its comfort. Be well.
Hidden SupportRead Now
I was going through my Facebook the other day and saw that a girl I once knew in high school, was going on a multi-country trip. As I was scrolling through the comments, I noticed most of them were well wishes and requests to check in everyday. For whatever reason this really struck me, this outpouring of care and concern of so many people, including myself.
This whole situation got me thinking. I genuinely felt concern and wished the best for this person. I found myself on the list of people who would quietly check Facebook every night to make sure that she posted, not wanting anything bad to befall her.
Having these feelings is not odd, it is natural to care for others, but this was different. This was a person I knew 15 odd years ago and the only line of connection in that time was seeing occasional Facebook posts, to be read and moved on from, nothing personal. Yet the care and concern I felt for this person was at a level that was comparable to what I would feel for a dear close friend.
This reflection made me realize that she was not the only person I felt this way about. There were many others, some well known, others only caught at a glance. The only common bond was that for some reason each of them had captured a part of me, had captivated a hidden part of my mind, that would subtly care about their welfare for the rest of my life.
They are not top of mind, in fact, these people are hardly thought of, yet when you hear that they are doing well, you feel the bond and sense of relief, almost as though your mind could breathe a little easier. When you hear of something bad or concerning about that person, the hidden bond surfaces to hum and shine bright, a beacon in the darkness should they ever need you.
I didn’t know that I had this wonderful tapestry of hidden connections until recently and I am thrilled to have found it. It is beautiful, full of memories, and instills good feelings. All of these people have been receiving my hidden support since we met, though they don’t know it.
It makes you wonder, who is your hidden support?
Why the Calm Scribe?Read Now
"Who is the Calm Scribe? Is it you? Why are you the Calm Scribe? Are you calm?"
As I sat at my first book fair, I was nervous. I had never done a book fair before and I was about to present myself to the city as a new author, with my first books. I had taken time to prepare everything so it would be just right, got myself mentally prepared for anything that might come, and was ready to step into the unknown. I was ready for any question; Where do you get your ideas? What age group is this good for? How long have you been writing? Why do you write? I had answers ready for them all, that is until a lady walked up to my table a hit me with a simple question that left me stumbling for a moment. "Who is the Calm Scribe?"
My first reaction was to simply say it is me, but then I started to wonder, is this an existential question? If so who are any of us? The name came to me the same way a lot of my stories do, out of the blue, yet it holds so much truth. I am connected to this name, this name describes me in a very personal way, it is rooted in my core. How do I explain to this lovely stranger all that is behind the name, behind me? The best way, I thought, would be to break it up.
I chose the word calm because it is one of my favorite words in the English language. I find it evokes the sensation it is describing. It starts with a hard chaotic "C" and ends with a smooth sounding "alm". So many instances in our life are hard and chaotic and make our energies sharp and choppy, making it difficult to think clearly. Staying calm allows us to deal with these issues like water. Flowing freely around an obstacle rather than try to fight it. If it can't moved around, staying calm allows one to slowly erode the issue or find a way to cope. I find the very word helps bring one out of chaos simply by saying it.
The other reason I chose calm is due to how I live my life. I used to be very active, always doing something, always moving, and always rushing from one thing to the next until a life changing incident forced me to slow down. I found myself needing to meditate and be mindful just to get through the days, and still do. I spend a lot of time trying to keep my energy and system calm and controlled, which is essential for me. It is through this calmer state that I watch the world and life unfold. This has allowed me to be open and have a new perspective that allows me to understand life in new ways. Which I hope translates to my writing.
The word was chosen because that is how I picture myself and a lot of other writers. Sure the ideas are mine, but the stories belong to my characters. Once the idea has been created, the characters will come and introduce themselves to me. We sit down and chat as they explain their past, their motivations, and their aspirations for the future. After I have met most of the main characters and we are familiar with each other, they begin to tell me their story. I may interject and offer ideas from time to time, but I usually allow them to let the story unfold. If I push too hard or try to control too much they get mad and may stop talking to me for a while.
Once the story is out and on paper, the characters recede to live their lives in the world we created, only to come out once in a while in the editing process to verify any questions I may have. It is in this way that the story is laid out and created. From time to time I will have a rough idea in my head as to how the story all ends, yet the characters don't always do what I expect them to, as can be seen in the short story Humanity. It started as a deer hunting a hunter and turned into what it is now; a powerful short piece, that leaves you slightly rattled with, hopefully, some new views on life.
It is in this way that I am a scribe, simply passing on the stories as they have been told to me by my characters. The calmer I am, the easier the process.
I could not say all of this to the owner of the question standing in front of me holding one of my books. I had already receded into my mind for long enough and I can sense her interest in my answer starting to fade the longer she has to wait for it. I smile at her and say "I am the Calm Scribe and these are some of my books."
I can see her interest start coming back. "I chose the name because I meditate every day and try to maintain an open mind. It helps me when thinking about my stories."
She smiles at me and the topic shifts to the books and what they are about, while I am left to think about this simple encounter that carried so much weight behind it.
Travis J. Croken
The Calm Scribe lives in Canada with his wife and two dogs.