Tuesday, 31 January 2012


The cold, the dark, the endless snow: this is what winter is all about for us adults. Frost is a nuisance we scrape furiously from car windshields as we run late for work. Billows of crystals from car exhaust obscure our vision at times as we try to drive through the ruts of ice on the roads. Then there's the inevitable dead car battery that has to be jump-started. No wonder millions head to warmer countries and spend thousands each winter just to get away.

Not so for children. Snow is just fluffy stuff to them, perfect for building forts or snowmen. Icy sidewalks on slopes are great fun to slide down. Watching their breath rise in the cold winter air is an enjoyable game, as is pretending to be a fire-breathing dragon. Watching snow fall through the beam of a street light becomes a journey through the stars.

In my Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir, I wrote many vignettes about how I loved playing in the snow. Being from Alberta, what little snowfall Vancouver received reminded me of home. Much to my supervisor's dismay, my dorm mates and I frolicked in it while adult motorists cursed.

When I was home for Christmas, I usually enjoyed being out in sub-zero weather. Of course it wasn't fun when I froze my feet, as I did while exploring the creek by my home one afternoon. Apart from that, I felt proud to be an Albertan and being able to brave what others thought of as impossibly cold weather.

I'm no fan of winter these days. I hate having to dress like an Arctic explorer so I can take out the garbage. Shovelling snow may be good exercise but it gets old fast. By march, I'm tempted to leave the snow where it lies and let spring take care of it.

How I long for the warm sweet-scented breezes of May and the lazy afternoon heat of July. I miss the birdsong I hear coming through opened windows, magpies not withstanding of course. I long for the fresh scent of the air after a thunder storm. Waking to brilliant sunlight and retiring to bed as the sun sets is one of many fond memories I cling to during these long winter nights.

Friday, 27 January 2012


"How can you see if you're blind?" Certain uncharitable people have asked me this over the years as if they caught me in a lie. The fact is that I have partial sight, even though the Government of Canada considers me to be legally blind. I can only distinguish general objects, not details such as people's eye colour.

One striking example of fully-sighted folks misunderstanding my limitations happened in January of 1988. Being newly licensed as an amateur radio operator, I devoted much of my free time to the hobby. Every tuesday evening, the Northern Alberta Radio Club held an on-air meeting called a net. At the end of each one, people listed radio equipment that they had for sale or which they wanted to buy. When the controller of the net mentioned that a certain person had a black-and-white video camera for sale, I was the first one to express interest in buying it. The man selling the camera objected on the grounds that I was legally blind, but the net controller declared my offer to be an official bid.

I could feel the waves of hostility as I walked into the next meeting of the club with my money. The man with the camera sold me the device but I could tell he felt nothing but contempt for my audaciousness. After all, what possible use would a video camera be to somebody like me.

As it turned out, I did use that camera quite a bit. I made video letters for my sister, Diane, and a few home videos of me with my rabbit, Floppy. I even made videos for some electronic music tunes that I composed. I still have the camera to this day and it still works.

I've written about other occasions where my poor vision has caused consternation among my sighted associates. Many of these vignettes are included in my When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoirs. Feel free to contact me directly or friend me on Facebook to learn more about these paperbacks.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012


Why do certain scents bring back strong memories? I'm told it's because part of our brain associates smells with events. Scientists suppose it's a hold-over from our primitive ancestors. To me, it's a way to effectively catalogue experiences.

One of my favourite scent/memory pairings is the faint odour of coal smoke and the memory of an old friend's shack. Scotty, as everybody called him, was a bachelor who lived on some undeveloped land in my home town of Fort Saskatchewan. Being elderly, he was like a foster grandfather to my sister and me.

We grew so fond of this kindly gentleman that we helped him with his chores. One of those was hauling coal in from his shed. Diane and I often squabbled over who would get to do the coveted chore.

On some winter afternoons, Diane and I visited Scotty on our way home from school. His stove, the only source of heat, radiated a welcoming warmth as we squatted next to it. Watching the flames and glowing embers through its air vents gave me a feeling of contentment that a forced air furnace never could.

As I wrote in Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), our beloved old friend passed away during a stormy winter night in 1964. His door blew open as he slept and ended his time on earth. I felt deeply saddened when Mom and Dad broke the news to me. Having never known either of my grandfathers, Scotty was the only senior adult who I related to then.

One of the houses here in Radway has a coal furnace, The scent of the smoke on the winter wind fills me with nostalgic memories as I walk to the post office and back home. My mind fills with images of my old friend, his cosy shack, and the winter afternoons Diane and I spent there.

Friday, 20 January 2012


For most folks, January is the start of a new year. All their hopes and plans are neatly lined up, gleaming with promise. The old year is behind them as they plough forth into new ventures and adventures.

It wasn't like that for me in 1965, 1966, and 1967. Unlike most Canadian children, I was sent to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind for months at a stretch. The government only allowed me to go home during summer and Christmas. When I returned each January, I knew that I wouldn't set foot in my beloved home until the end of June.

Six months is a long time to be away from home, especially for children. I soon learned to cope by focusing on whatever difficulty or pleasure engaged me at the moment. Only at night or whenever supervisors allowed me to be alone did the thoughts of home return.

As the days passed, I took note of the changing seasons. Vancouver's sodden winters turned to spring as I busied myself with the demands of school and outings. Even so, homesickness plagued me from time to time.

Then came Easter and the soul-crushing burden of knowing that I couldn't go home like most of the inmates of that institution did. Substitute supervisors took pity on us from time to time but it was cold comfort to me.

The resumption of school took my mind off going home for a few weeks. But the arrival of June started me counting down the days until the night I'd sleep in my own bed again. Three weeks, two, one: each minute seemed slower than the last as that wonderful day approached.

Finally, the long-awaited day came. Having ridden in a bus, plane, and Dad's Volkswagen, I found myself once again in the home that I yearned for with such intensity.

January no longer torments me with the depressing prospect of a six-month exile or even a three-month-long one. After writing Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School), memories of those miserable years don't sting like they once did. Additionally, my parents eased my suffering by paying for my train ticket home twice. In 1970, the British Columbia government took pity on us Alberta kids and flew us home.

I've written many more vignettes of my time at that institution in my Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) memoir. It, and When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies), are available directly from me. I hope to have How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity in print this year. Check out the information on the left hand side of this page or contact me directly for more information.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012


This is a lesson that I learned after years of failure. People read what they're interested in, not what they ought to read. How did I learn this? I wrote two memoirs. The sales of these paperbacks aptly demonstrate the value of knowing your readership.

In 2006, I wrote When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies). Because I knew of six-hundred folks who lived with house rabbits, I was able to sell approximately two-hundred-and-fifty copies. Blitzprint, the publisher, also sold some copies through their website. I have forty or so for sale at present.

My second memoir, Deliverance from Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) was literally a different story. Due to a misunderstanding with my publisher, I ended up with a hundred-and-fifty copies. Sales of this paperback have been poor since its publication in 2007. No matter how I promoted it to groups dealing with social or historical issues, the copies gathered dust on my shelves.

Only one group of people expressed interest in the book. A considerable number of blind and visually-impaired readers wrote to me, asking if the book was in an accessible form. Unfortunately for me, I misjudged the sighted public's interest in my eye-witness account of life in a residential school for the blind. This is why I published only a print version of it. Furthermore, several blind folks wanted the book for free. My hope was to have the book pay for itself as When a Man Loves a Rabbit did.

These lessons are quite clear to me. I must write paper versions of books for those with sight, the inclination, and the money to buy them. I must also investigate e-books and their readability by blind customers's screen reader software. Crass though it sounds, preaching to the choir sells.

I hope to have How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity published sometime this year. As it's my testimony of how God lead me to a proper understanding of himself and his Word, I believe it has much wider appeal than my previous books. Additionally, I hope it shows the importance of discipleship as well as the danger cults pose to new converts.

Friday, 13 January 2012


"Why aren't you like that Mielke boy?" my mom often exclaimed in exasperation whenever she ranted about my failings. "He can't see at all, yet he types his own letters and plays the piano. He gets such good grades too." If she thought this criticism would spur me on to achieve academic excellence, it had a much different effect.

"That Mielke Boy" who Mom esteemed at my expense was my schoolmate at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind in Vancouver, British Columbia. As his parents lived near the school, he was able to go home each evening. I had to board at that institution for months at a stretch. This fellow pupil could do no wrong in Mom's eyes. I feel sure she envied his parents for having such a brilliant son while she had lacklustre offspring.

If only Mom knew the rest of the story. My friend's parents were strict disciplinarians who stood for no nonsense. For example, talking at the dinner table was forbidden. So was any sort of frivolity inside the house. Even the living room was off limits to the children unless they were supervised. No wonder this pet of Mom's excelled at school.

The last time I spoke to "that Mielke boy" was in the summer of 1975. The change in him astonished me. He swore, listened to rock music (which his parents forbad), and proudly announced that he took drugs. The break between him and his parents caused such extreme hard feelings that they might never have reconciled.

My mom should have been grateful that I wasn't like her adored "Mielke boy." My marks were average and I graduated from high school, yet I turned out all right.

Though I forgave Mom and pray for her each day, the emotional damage she caused with her constant comparison of me to my school friend still hasn't healed after more than forty years. The lesson from this is clear. Parents should encourage, not discourage, their children. My friend and I would have felt far more affection toward our respective parents had they cheered us on in the good things we did rather than pick at our failures.

Deliverance from Jericho is filled with many more vignettes of what life was like in that government-run institution. These range from poignant experiences of homesickness to hilarious incidents of mischief. Please feel free to contact me directly as well.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Whenever I hear "Tiny Dancer" by Elton John, I'm reminded of the days when I handed out tracts on the streets of Edmonton. This fad was commonly practiced among evangelical Christians during the early seventies. This wasn't solely a Christian practice as other religious groups also handed out their handbills.

In my upcoming memoir called How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity, I wrote about my introduction to this style of outreach ministry. Here's how it went.


Though Thee Church had no overt evangelical mission program, some members encouraged me to share my faith through handing out tracts. my first experience of this practice happened late one January afternoon when Linda and I rode the bus downtown.

"Here's some tracts," she instructed. "Just walk down the street and hand people one," she instructed. "I'll be close by if you need any help with questions."

"I've never done this before," I said as I nervously fingered the slips of paper. "Is that all I have to do?"

"Yes. If the Spirit lays something on your heart, say whatever he tells you. Don't be afraid. Remember that Christ promised never to forsake us."

Most people I approached ignored my proffered slip of paper. When I held up one with the words "NOT TOO SHORT" on it, a sour-voiced old man said, "Not too short of money, I'll bet."

Knowing the false reputation among unbelievers of Christians constantly begging for donations, his remark stung. By the time I thought of a civil reply, the man had walked away.


How I Was Razed is my testimony of how charismatic house church elders misled me for more than fifteen years. After leaving that congregation and turning my back on God for almost a decade, due to the lies that the cult taught about him, the Lord revealed his true nature to me. I now realize how blasphemous that house church's doctrines were.

You're also welcome to contact me directly for more information about my memoirs.

Friday, 6 January 2012


What a simple pleasure being in one's own private space is. As our family expanded and the three of us kids grew, the large bed upstairs no longer accommodated us like it once did.

Two years before I was sent to Jericho Hill School for the Deaf and Blind, my dad built a bedroom in the basement for my sister, Diane, and me. To a six-year-old boy who admired his less-than-perfect dad, this was a wonderful development.

Each weekday during the winter of 1962, I raced home from school during the lunch break to see what Dad had added to it. witnessing the progress he made thrilled me. I watched in fascination as he laid the floor boards down. Excitement filled me as he built the walls and hung sheetrock on them. When I asked why he was shoving pink blankets into the ceiling, he taught me about Fibreglass Pink insulation and how it kept out the cold. After a few coats of paint, it was done.

Diane and I were ecstatic the evening Dad let us into our new bedroom. Our excitement knew no bounds. We each had our own bed to sleep in. Additionally, our new room had robin's-egg blue walls, pinkish-brown floor tiles, and the wood trim was a natural pine colour.

But it wasn't ours to enter and leave as we pleased. Dad locked the door during the day and only let us in before bed. He claimed to have a magic key that would only work if we didn't peek. Diane disobeyed one evening and discovered that Dad just used a nail to disengage the lock.

From then on, we played happily in our own special place. Whenever my brother, Roy, was having one of his violent tantrums or my parents were fighting like caged animals, that bedroom became our sanctuary. During cold winter days, or when it was raining, Diane and I entertained ourselves there. Both of our parents resigned themselves to our steadfast wish to use the room for more than just a place to sleep.

Fifty years have come and gone since that thrilling evening when Dad presented our new bedroom to us. The house is now owned by strangers but I still remember it as it was in my childhood. If those people have children, I hope they enjoy our special hideaway as much as Diane and I did.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


The way people act on New Year's Eve, a casual observer would assume that something absolutely awe-inspiring had happened. Somebody from another planet, if there are such beings, would be puzzled at the eruption of joy around the world since nothing but the date changes from year to year. The annual Times Square ritual is the most striking example of this.

I blogged before about one New Years Eve when Mom taught me that years have numbers when I was eight. The novelty of this discovery wore off soon when I found that the snow was just as deep and the air was just as cold outside my bedroom window on the first day of January as it had been the previous day.

A few years after I gave my life to Christ, I attended a house church that observed something called Watch Night Service. The leader often made predictions, much to the delight of his handful of loyal congregants. When the spell of this pseudo-prophet eventually wore off, I realized that his "revelations" were invariably wrong.

When I discarded my Christian beliefs for nine years, each first of January was like any other. I felt no reason to celebrate something as artificial as the changing of calendars. The only pleasant aspect for me was having a day off work.

My attitude about this passing of the years didn't change when I returned to Christ's fold in 1996. I still had the same problems and opportunities as always. All that changed for me was that I brought my concerns to the Lord in prayer rather than fuming about them to myself.

I still don't bother getting all excited about New Year's Day. I have my hopes, such as publishing How I Was Razed: A Journey from Cultism to Christianity, and perhaps they won't be thwarted.

Even so, I've learned that I must find work-arounds for the difficulties I face. Like Christ admonished, I'll take things one day at a time since there's enough trouble at present. I'll let tomorrow worry about itself. This is good stress-busting advice for us all.