Sunday, July 2, 2023

What 35 years in Canada means to me


Exactly 35 years ago today, I arrived in Toronto.  I was 22 at the time and back in 1988, there was no internet, a long-distance call was barely possible and I knew nothing about anything.  I only knew two things about Canada.  One: it was as far away as one could get from the sunny shores of South Africa and two: it was always cold.

The simple young adult that I was – I went along with the flow - not knowing what to expect – new territory and unchartered waters.

And the adventure that started 35-years ago today, continues – thanks to the foresight of my awesome parents who unselfishly, gave up so much to get myself, my brother and sister to a safer and more sane society than South Africa was to become.

As I reflect, the first few years here were incredibly difficult.  Adjusting to a new way of life – and with very little in the way of finances to speak of is not for the faint-of heart.  It’s about perseverance, true grit and determination.  I’m fortunate in that these qualities are a part of my being.

Make no mistake, I’ve paid my dues, paid my taxes and contributed tremendously to society – it’s just the way I roll. 

A proud and patriotic South African, I still love the country that gave me 22 awesome years, equipping me surprisingly well for the next 35 – and for that I am grateful.

Canada – my homeland – “With glowing hearts we see thee rise, The True North, strong and free!”.  It’s the words “strong” and “free” that resonate in me mostly.  They speak loudly to me.  “Strong” in character and “free” in spirit – this country has always allowed me to live strong and be free.

1994, 1997 and 2001 were pivotal years.  In 1994, I married the most awesome woman I could ever have wished for – Karen.  In 1997, I became a father to Jason and in 2001, we were blessed with Amanda.  I’m so grateful to my family, a diverse and broad set of friends, an amazing career and most of all – the abundance of health I enjoy.

Today, I look backward and forward.  Backward at what has been three and a half decades of joy, laced with some awesome accomplishments, I would never have thought possible.  Forward to the next chapter of joy.

But for now, I’m going to sit quietly and reflect – in an all-to-brief moment of gratitude.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Reflections: Lockdown

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. We’re in lockdown again, stuck at home. Sucks! No question - the last 18 months (or so) have been nothing short of tumultuous as COVID19 has ravaged the globe. 

I had an insightful conversation with a pharmacist friend, we discussed the significant toll the pandemic has taken on mental health. Mental illness rates have skyrocketed since last March, prescriptions quadrupling.  

But I am grateful to talk about what brings me so much joy, especially in times like this. Read below! 

  1. Music. Life without music would be unbearable and unlivable. How miraculous it is that I hit the play button on my phone, and seconds later, sounds of music hit my brain, register in my brain, and please me - no end. Nothing better than sitting back and listening to classic rock. Within milliseconds I am overcome with joy. How miraculous is that? I pinch myself in amazement. 

  2. My relationship with G-d. I am not going to pretend that I am religious, just keep a kosher home, stick to dairy-only out.  (Remember when we used to go out for an occasional dinner?). We keep a strictly kosher home, which I am not willing to bend on. Be that as it may – I know who G-d is, what he wants from me, what I want from him, and how to relate to him. Sorry social justice warriors, I still refer to G-d as masculine.  I may be wrong, but whether G-d is male or female doesn’t make a difference to me. 

  3. My health. Yup, I am now closer to 60 than I am to 50. Unfortunately, ageing is inevitable, but I am grateful every day for my excellent health, am addicted to nothing, and live a normal life. Yeah, I could lose a few pounds, who couldn’t? I do recognize how lucky I am to be healthy. 

  4. Love. I have an abundance. I am so grateful every day for all the love I give, but more importantly, all of the love I get without having to ask. I’ve got an awesome wife with whom I’ve been married for 27 years. We have two great children who are finding their own ways with our counsel. We have given them the foundation to lead productive and happy lives. Despite having emigrated 32 years ago, I am grateful that both my mom and dad, brother, and sister all live within a 10-minute drive from one another. How remarkable is that?

  5. Physical fitness. Going hand in hand with health, I love being active. Despite being in isolation for some 18 months, I am lucky to have an at-home gym where I spin with Fern, my faithful teacher of 8 years and AdlerFitness --- we have the technology, I can crank up the music in my house, sing and shout, while I spin with my mic on mute, and rid myself of all my tensions. 

  6. Career. They say that you won’t work a day in your life if you love what you do, and although I work some 60 hours a week every week, it often feels as though I don't work at all. How lucky am I to enjoy that? 

  7. Nature. “Oh shit,”
    I said to myself last Wednesday when I saw in my yard our gorgeous blooming magnolia tree with snow. It's not up to me to figure these things out, why we get snow in the third week of April, or how a magnolia tree blossoms. Both these concepts are above my pay grade. But I couldn't help but admire the beautiful juxtaposition that hit my eyes, gorgeous. 

I could ramble on all day, but that’s not my style. For now, I want to sit back, revel in all that I have with huge gratitude.  

Disclosure:  I am not compensated by AdlerFitness

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Happy Birthday Champ, aka The Greatest

Can't say I am or ever was a big fan of boxing, but one thing is for sure, I know the champ.  You see on this day (January 17) in 1942, the champ was born in Louisville, Kentucky.    Beginning training at 12, he would win the light heavyweight gold medal in the 1960 Olympics (6 years before I was born).  On March 6, 1964, he announced he no longer would be known as Cassius Clay but as Muhammad Ali. In 1966, he refused to be drafted into the military, citing his religious beliefs and ethical opposition to the war that was raging in Vietnam. He was found guilty of draft evasion so he faced 5 years in prison and was stripped of his boxing titles. He stayed out of prison as he appealed the decision to the Supreme Court, which overturned his conviction in 1971 by which time by all accounts he was past his peak performance as an athlete.   

Many phrases were coined by him, "The greatest", "Rope-a-dope", "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee",  "Fight of the century", "The Thrilla in Manila", "The Rumble in the Jungle". There are many more!

I think though, his most humorous and endearing story was in 1971, when Wilt Chamberlain challenged Ali to a fight, scheduled for July 26. Although the seven-foot-two-inch tall Chamberlain had formidable physical advantages over Ali—weighing 60 pounds more and able to reach 14 inches further—Ali was able to influence Chamberlain into calling off the bout by taunting him with calls of "Timber!" and "The tree will fall". No wonder  - the Ali statement unsettled Wilt the Stilt - the bout was called off.  

And then there was the Rumble in the Jungle.  I was 8 years old at the time, didn't know much about anything, other than Kinshasa was somewhere in Africa.  Ali was supremely confident.  So confident that he told the press, "done something new for this fight. I done wrestled with an alligator, I done tussled with a whale; handcuffed lightning, thrown thunder in jail; only last week, I murdered a rock, injured a stone, hospitalized a brick; I'm so mean I make medicine sick."

There is so much more than can be said, but I'll end this by saying the world lost this icon to the ravages of Parkinson's on June 3, 2016.  

Champ - here's to you on what would have been your 79th birthday!

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

December 8, 1980 - A day in the life

I was 14 at the time.  Muizenberg.  South Africa.  With my parents on our annual family vacation.  I had no idea what death was, how it worked, its consequences.  And - its finality.

It was actually December 9th when I found out --- about John Lennon's death.  Gunned down outside his brownstone in New York City at 10:49pm (New York Time) on the 8th - 5:49am on Dec 9th (Cape Town time).  I was at the corner store, getting a chocolate bar, when I saw the headline.  It stopped me.  It seemed like time froze - and in what seemed like an eternity, this 14 year-old naive and innocent, John Sacke realized the world had lost a musical icon - John Lennon.  

Murdered by Mark David Chapman.  A lunatic.  A deranged security guard from Hawaii, he had been a fan of the Beatles and would later claim he had been enraged by Lennon's now infamous 1966 remark about the group being "more popular than Jesus."  You'd gun down a guy for that?

Some say John's last words were, "I'm shot".  Other reliable sources they were "Yes", in response to the officers' question, "Are you John Lennon".  Whatever they were, the tragedy remains.  

For the most part, the Beatles were before my time.  I was in diapers when they released what is perhaps the greatest album of all time, "Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" .  Released in May 1967, it would go on to spend 15 weeks as the Top Album in the United States - a record at that time. 

I never really internalized John Lennon's death until about 25 years ago - when acts of terror and hate really began to penetrate the mainstream.   And sadly today, heinous acts of terror are an almost daily occurrence somewhere in the world.  The acts are too numerous to mention, and with each one, the world becomes a little, no, make that a lot darker.

And there is no question at all, that the Beatles are as relevant today as they have ever been.  According to Forbes Magazine the Beatles' songs were streamed more than 1.5 billion times last year - and that almost half of the people streaming them, were under 30.  Wow!  Can you imagine being highly relevant for 50 years and counting?  What a musical force, indeed.

I listen to John and the Beatles iconoclastic musical masterpieces all the time and so thankful for it.  It's music I never tire of.  Never seems to go stale - and the more I listen, the more I appreciate its brilliance --  

Even during this pandemic, there are memorial ceremonies being held.  At Strawberry Fields in New York.  Outside the Capitol Records Building on Vine Street in Los Angeles - and in front of Lennon's Hollywood Walk of Fame Star.  There is also a memorial being held inside this little heart of John Sacke.    

"You may say I'm a dreamer

But I'm not the only one

I hope someday you'll join us

And the world will live as one"

Sunday, November 29, 2020

My first post in almost 9 months

Time flies. Wow.  

February 12, 2020 (my last blog post).  291 days, 25,142,400 seconds. 419,040 minutes. 6984 hours. 79.51% of the year.  A universe apart.  Everything has changed.  It's a new world.  Not necessarily a better one.  A new world.  But I am grateful.  No make that very grateful.  No again. Make me that "off-the-charts-grateful" for all that I have.  I thank G-d every day.

A vaccine for Covid-19?  I think so.  Coming in 2021.  I know companies like Pfizer, Moderna, Astra Zeneca and many others are pushing science and research to its limits in their attempts to quell this deadly pandemic.

Amidst this changing world, there have been many constants - each one playing a major role in my sanity.  Family.  Friends.  Work.  Health.  Love.  Yes to all.  And then there is music - something that's always soothed me.   Here are some riveting music clips - each with the why.

1.  Amnesty Concert, Maple Leaf Gardens.  1988.  Click here.  The why.  My first concert in Canada, 6 weeks after I arrived.  I had no money.  Jumped the turnstile.  Somehow landed up 9 rows from the stage.  Peter Chapman.  Sting.  The Boss.  Tracy Chapman. Youssou N'Dour.  All singing for the human cause.  Wow!

2. One.  U2 and Mary J. Blige.  Click here.  Guttural Bono at his very best.  Mary - sensual and passionate.  All in One.  You gotta love this one.

3.  Chuck Mangione.  Feels so good.  Click here.  Born exactly on this day in 1940 in Rochester, New York - this is a feel good piece - like no other.  Chuck - happy 80th birthday buddy.

4.  One hundred ways.  James Ingram.  A great soul song.  Click here. Note the words "Bein' cool won't help you keep a love warm. You'll just blow your only chance. Take the time to open up your heart. That's the secret of romance"  Been married to Karen, the love of my life for over 26 years and still going strong.

5. David Bowie.  Starman.  Click here.  Not gonna say much, as I've said it before --- see here - a post I wrote a week after his death in 2016.  A musical icon.  Gone.  Not forgotten.

6.  Asimbonanga.  Jonny Clegg.  Click here.  A haunting song.  A riveting song.  Skip to 4:07 in the clip (if you must) to see Nelson himself make an appearance.  Clegg, a South African musical icon --- just a few years older than me.  Sadly, he passed away July 16, 2019.  Taken too soon.  Cancer.

7.  Eminem.  Lose Yourself.  Click here.  It's hardcore - motivational.  Never seem to get tired of listening it it.  The opening lyrics ... "Look. If you had One shot. Or one opportunity. To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment. Would you capture it. Or just let it slip?"

Is this list exhaustive?  For sure not.  It's just a listing a songs I've listened to and clips I've watched frequently in the past 9 months.

Stay safe.  Stay sane.  Stay healthy. 


Wednesday, February 12, 2020

I'm Now 54 - A thing or four I have learned

So, yesterday I turned 54 – my age now incorporating the numbers of the most famous dance club of this (or the last) generation; Studio 54.  Truth be told, I did go there a few times (the winter of 1985) but that’s a topic for another day.

You know, birthdays always make me reflect a little – and the perfect time for that was yesterday in the spinning class I went to from 5:30 to 6:15pm.  The instructor played great music – loud – and for those that know me well, know that I love great music – loud.  It was grunge hour yesterday, a genre I particularly like.  Soundgarden.  Nirvana.  Blink 182.  Pearl Jam. I was in my happy place and did some good reflection. 

The bottom line is this: I consider myself to be the most fortunate person I know (or even don't).  Far as I am concerned, I have it all.  A great job.  An awesome wife.  Two great young adult kids.  Supportive family.  A career I adore which provides me a good living.  Perfect health.  A wide and diverse circle of friends and many clients that admire and respect me.  And I live in a fantastic country.  And that’s the point – I have it all – and I am so grateful. 

That I have so much happiness in my life, makes me kinda/ somewhat qualified to share the things that got me to where I am, and if this helps but one person of the approximate 600 that will get this – then the world will be (just a little bit) a better place.
  • Being angry for 10 minutes is OK.  Being angry for more than 10 minutes is not.  People, places and things are going to piss you off from time to time.  No question.  And you’re going to be justifiably angry.  Know what I say?  Get over it dude and move on.  No problem was ever solved by dwelling in an angry past --- look at the tomorrow aspect
  •  Keep in touch with people – even when you don’t need anything from them and especially when you don’t need anything from them.  Even a dead, rapidly rotting fish in the summer sun smells better than a voicemail I got a few days ago that went like this, “Hi John, it’s so-and-so and we met like ten years ago at a PR conference.  FRemember me? Sorry I never called you or was in touch.  But I wanted to pick your brain for a few minutes.  Please call me.”  Yeah right? I could not hit the delete button fast enough
  • Keep your word.  I know this sounds easier than you think – but most people say one thing and do another.  I’ve noticed in the past few years that many people pay little attention to doing what they say and saying what they do … but don’t be a sheeple.  If you say it.  Then do it.  Simple.
  • Ask not what others can do for you, but what you can do for others.  Help before you ask for help yourself.  Be kind and generous in everything (especially with our time) to others and they’ll repay you over and over and over again.  You have got to give to get. 
That pretty much is it.  Heed the above 4 ideas – and you’ll live a happier life.  You have my word. Now, as I bask in the emotional warmth from yesterday, I will bid the world goodnight.  Le Chaim!

Sunday, September 1, 2019

It's a new era - we're back to where we started

It's weighed on my head for the past few months - the kids leaving the house, that is.  Jason is now back in London, completing his fifth and final year of the Ivey Honors in Business Administration program.  Amanda, our youngest at Queen's University in Kingston - set for her first year in her concurrent education program.

We're back from Kingston now - fingers crossed she's settling in.  She resilient, I hope and expect.  A strong young lady, I hope and expect. At a great educational institution, I hope and expect.  In the prime of her life - I know.

But - it's not easy for me.  It's how my awesome wife and I were twenty-five years ago --- just the two of us.  Except, we're now 25 years older.  25 years more experienced.  And 25 years more in love with one another.  But - it's not easy for me.  I can see this transition is going to be a struggle.

They say the job of being a parent is never done.  Even when your kids live out the house - some 250 kilometers away.  They say the job of being a parent is never done.  Even when your kids get married. They say the job of being a parent is never done.  Even when your kids have kids of their own. 

And while I feel my job is far from done, I can't help feeling sad.  Sad that my kids are out the house.  But happy that they're doing great things with their lives, getting excellent educations and making what are hopefully meaningful life connections - without me.  And that's a good thing.  It's the way nature intended it to be.  You can't fight it.

When I kissed and hugged my daughter yesterday, I felt my eyes well up .  They became thick  and heavy.  I felt the bitter sting of tear as the salty drop worked its way down my warm cheek into the waiting kleenex.  Amanda saw me.  Karen saw me and the world saw me.  Even G-d saw me - and in that tearful and mixed-up moment, I realized I am the luckiest man in the world.

And who was it again - that said real men don't cry?